Image: Picture of a young James D. Watson (born 1928). Public domain picture.
Not so long ago I wrote about about some of the controversy surrounding “celebrity” genomes: The first few individual genomes to be sequenced are mostly those of famous scientists. At first I didn’t think that was such a big deal, but I later changed my mind (see the post for details).
Well, now we learn that James D. Watson, a molecular biologist best known for his role in discovering the structure of DNA (the famous double helix) has received his genome (the $2 million DVD mentioned in the title of this post). It was sequenced in the last 2 months by 454, a company that is working on ways to read genomes more efficiently (and thus less expensively).
The $2 million and two months that it took to sequence Watson’s genome is a far cry from the more than ten years and $3 billion required for the Human Genome Project’s reference genome, released in 2003. Scientists ultimately hope to bring the cost down to less than $10,000, a target price that many believe will be the turning point in genomic medicine. At that price, many people could afford to have their genomes sequenced, and doctors could then use that data to give their patients more-personalized medical advice.
To get there and be able to interpret most of the genetic data we’ll first have to transcribe many more genomes and create databases that also contain people’s medical histories and personal characteristics. It should take a few years, but less than most people would expect. Exciting times!
Source: MIT Technology Review