The US National Institutes of Health
(NIH) has issued a request for applications
for funding to develop novel genome sequencing technologies that will allow extremely low-cost DNA sequencing. The cost of genome sequencing has fallen dramatically from tens of dollars per base in the 1980s to a fraction of a dollar today, but because mammalian genomes are so large (around 3 Gigabases) the total expenditure is still very large. Using current techniques, the cost of sequencing a mammalian genome is presently between $10 and $50 million. A reduction in cost of four orders of magnitude is sought, with a target cost of $1000 for a 3 Gb genome. It is expected that such revolutionary technologies will take some time to develop, so the NIH has also released a parallel request for applications
to develop technologies to permit sequencing of a 3Gb genome for around $100,000. This interim goal of a reduction in costs by two orders of magnitude is anticipated to be achievable in around five years, whereas to develop means of reducing costs to $1000 is projected to take at least twice as long. For both programmes, draft sequence qualities must be equivalent to, or better than, that of the mouse genome (Nature 2002 420, 520-562)
, and accuracy of not more than one error per 10,000 bases is stipulated. The potential contributions of very low cost genomic sequencing to the use of genomic information in individual health care is cited as a key motivation for this project, as are research areas including cross-species genomic analysis for insight into the genetics of human health and disease, and microbial genome sequence analysis to provide medically and environmentally useful information.