Bioinformatics and the Rate of Research

An article from earlier this year at does an excellent job of illustrating the advances that are driving the increasing rate of progress in medical research.

The parts for a DNA synthesizer can now be purchased for approximately $10,000. By 2010 a single person will be able to sequence or synthesize 10^10 bases a day. Within a decade a single person could sequence or synthesize all the DNA describing all the people on the planet many times over in an eight-hour day or sequence his or her own DNA within seconds.


Indeed, the continuing costs of sequencing (expendables such as reagents) have fallen exponentially over the time period covered by Figure 1.5 Lander et al., state in Nature that by 2000 the total costs of sequencing had fallen by a factor of 100 in ten years, with costs falling by a factor of 2 approximately every eighteen months.6 With the caveat that there are only limited data to date, it does appear that the total cost of sequencing and synthesis are falling exponentially.


Despite the fantastic nature of these numbers, there is no physical reason why sequencing an individual human genome should take longer than a few minutes.

The article as a whole is a doom and gloom effort relating to safety - but plenty of people are thinking hard about ensuring the safety of biotechnology (and nanotechnology). We should be celebrating the advances that will herald a new level of scientific understanding of the human body - and therapies to cure or prevent age-related diseases.


This suggests that the capital costs of pioneering research into aging should decrease over time. This also suggests that the costs of developing therapies (as opposed to the regulatory approval of therapies) should also decrease over time.

Is it possible that if aging is not cured by 2030 or 2040, that someone could do the whole shebang in their basement lab with relatively little money?

Any reason why this is not possible?

Posted by: Kurt at September 15th, 2004 1:37 PM

I haven't seen this prize mentioned lately to incent very inexpensive genome sequencing.

link from:

The J. Craig Venter Science Foundation
Innovation in Genomics Science and Technology Prize

The J. Craig Venter Science Foundation announces its ?Innovation in Genomics Science and
Technology Prize.? This $500,000 one-time award will recognize outstanding research and
development in the area of genomics that provide a breakthrough technology (or technologies),
deemed by the Prize Committee of the Foundation?s Board of Trustees to have substantially and
directly contributed to the rapid and cost effective sequencing of a human genome for $1,000 or
less. While there have been significant advances achieved in many laboratories and by many
companies in the field of genomics, this award is aimed at stimulating the scientific and
technology research community to work toward a substantial reduction in the costs of
sequencing, thus enabling genomics to have broader and more far reaching applications in
identifying and curing disease.

Posted by: Dave Gobel at September 17th, 2004 9:35 AM

Interestingly, when one does a Google search on ...craig venter foundation prize $500,000...there are only 105 hits. Seems like a mighty paltry PR yield. A google of Methuselah Mouse prize gets >3,700 hits.

I wonder if the Methuselah Foundation should "help" publicize the Venter prize?

Posted by: Dave Gobel at September 17th, 2004 9:40 AM

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