The genetic testing market is estimated to reach $25 billion annually by 2021.
With the Ion Proton System — a $100,000 machine that can sit on top of a table — it’s not light that’s being recorded, but changes in pH balance. The DNA snippets being sequenced are attached to tiny beads sitting in as many as a billion tiny wells on a custom-designed semiconductor chip. The chip is flooded with DNA nucleotides, and when a base snaps into place, a hydrogen ion is released and recorded.
Life Technologies can sequence the exome — the 1 percent of the genome we know how to interpret — for $500. “In three months, we’ll be able to do one entire human genome for $1,000,” predicts Rothberg, whose first company, 454 Life Sciences, was the one that sequenced James Watson’s genome.
Eric Topol, a professor of genomics and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego, says chip sequencing — without expensive reagents — has the potential to be “remarkably cheaper” than traditional optical sequencing.