Update on genome sequencing costs

For many years, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has tracked the costs associated with DNA sequencing performed at the sequencing centers funded by the Institute. This information has served as an important benchmark for assessing improvements in DNA sequencing technologies and for establishing the DNA sequencing capacity of the NHGRI Genome Sequencing Program (GSP). Here, NHGRI provides an analysis of these data, which gives one view of the remarkable improvements in DNA sequencing technologies and data-production pipelines in recent years.

To calculate the cost for sequencing a genome, one needs to know the size of that genome and the required ‘sequence coverage’ (i.e., ‘sequence redundancy’) to generate a high-quality assembly of the genome given the specific sequencing platform being used. For generating the “Cost per Genome” graph, the assumed genome size was 3,000 Mb (i.e., the size of a human genome). The assumed sequence coverage needed differed among sequencing platforms, depending on the average sequence read length for that platform.

The following ‘sequence coverage’ values were used in calculating the cost per genome:

Sanger-based sequencing (average read length=500-600 bases): 6-fold coverage
454 sequencing (average read length=300-400 bases): 10-fold coverage
Illumina and SOLiD sequencing (average read length=75-150 bases): 30-fold coverage

6 thoughts on “Update on genome sequencing costs”

  1. From actually reading the article, the top (unlabeled, green) graph is for a complete genome at an appropriate coverage level (whether you need 10X or 30X coverage varies according to sequencing platform depending on read length/quality, so this factors that in).

    So we’re at about $1000 these days, not much change for 2 years. But keep in mind that the period between 2012 and late 2014 also showed no real change, then followed by a sudden multi-fold price reduction. So fingers crossed for another jump.

  2. The cost is per mega pair , seems to be for a single coverage. To be medical quality you need about 10-30 times more. So the whole genome can easily be 1000. But that’s the main explanation that now the factors that were negligeable are now write significant. Hence the process are flat in the last few years

  3. If I’m reading the graph right, the cost per mega base pair is about 1 penny. This makes a human genome around $30. If that’s the case, it could explain why there hasn’t been any cost reduction recently. At $30, overhead factors come in to play (wages, electricity etc.), and present a price floor.

    • At $30/Mbp, it is probably more expensive to have a qualified staff member take the DNA sample in the first place.

  4. Someone finally remembers to update the graph for the first time since early 2016 and it turns out there’s been no progress for two years. Big whoop.

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