Company announces low-cost DNA decoding machine

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 10:37

New York: A biotechnology company announced it has developed a machine to decode an individual`s DNA in a day for $1,000, a long-sought price goal for making the genome useful for medical care.

Life Technologies Corp. said it was taking orders for the technology, which it expects to deliver in about a year. The Carlsbad, Calif., company said three major research institutions had already signed up for the $149,000 machine: the Baylor College of Medicine, the Yale School of Medicine and the Broad Institute of Cambridge, Mass.

A second company, Illumina of San Diego, also introduced a new technology Tuesday that it said will decode an entire genome in about 24 hours. Its statement did not estimate the cost per genome.

The machines, called sequencers, allow scientists to identify the arrangement of the 3 billion chemical building blocks that make up someone`s DNA.

Since the first sequencing of the basic human genome was announced at the White House in 2000, the costs of sequencing DNA have steadily tumbled. The $1,000 target has long been cited as a key step toward making the technique practical for doctors to use to help their patients, such as for revealing vulnerabilities to certain diseases or tailoring medical treatment.

Sequencing whole genomes is now done primarily for research. It`s different from the service some companies offer to consumers that cover just part of the genome or particular spots in it, such as for information on ancestry or disease susceptibility.

The $1,000 cost for a whole genome is about the same as many of today`s lab tests, said Chad Nussbaum, co-director of the Genome Sequencing and Analysis Program at the Broad Institute. Tuesday`s announcement is "bringing the DNA sequence closer" to being affordable and fast enough for doctors to use, Nussbaum said. If the machine works as expected, a doctor might send a patient`s DNA to a lab and get useful information back in about a week, he said.

Bureau Report



First Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 10:37

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