Gene Sequencing: Seven thousand dollars will buy you a million base pairs of DNA [using conventional technology], which is one-6,000th of your diploid (6 billion base pairs genome. Polony sequencing [a method developed by Church and colleagues] is about a hundred times less expensive ($3425 for 30 million bases per run as of June 2006). So you can sequence about 1 percent of the genome [for $10,000].You could focus on likely places you’re going to have problems. We got a factor-of-ten improvement in the last six months, so if we could get another 10 times improvement in the next year, that would give us 10 percent of the genome. If we could pick 10 percent of the genome for which we have lifestyle, nutritional, or synthetic solutions, that would be a good deliverable for a $10,000 investment.
Synthetic biology and gene synthesis:
George Church and his Harvard lab recently developed a new way to synthesize DNA. They are reducing costs for genetic synthesis with a reasonable accuracy. Right now the cost of synthesizing a base [using conventional technology] is about 10 cents. That’s the current street price for raw oligonucleotides. For synthesizing simple genes, it’s more like $1.30 a base. George Church and his team can manufacture oligonucleotides at .01 cent per base. It means many more genetic constructs can be made. The method also allows longer stretches of DNA to be made. The implications are that we are getting closer to being able to arbitrarily “program” the millions of base pairs in microbes or billions of base pairs in plants and animal genomes similar to the way that we program computers.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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