Want Your Genome Sequenced? Try Ebay

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Who thought that Ebay would be the place to get a deal on getting your genome sequenced? From now through May 4, Knome, a Boston-based genome sequencing company, is auctioning off a “Genome Sequencing Experience.”  Starting bid: $68,000, more than $30K off the regular list price. Here’s a link.

The auction is being held to raise awareness of (and money for) the X Prize Foundation’s Archon X PRIZE for Genomics (AGXP), “a global competition that will award $10 million to the first person or team that can sequence 100 human genomes within 10 days at a cost of no more than $10K per genome.”

It will be interesting to see if anyone bids. Sure, it would be exciting to have your complete genetic code on a USB thumb drive. But the amount of clinically useful information you would glean is small, probably not more than you would learn via a thorough family history. As this New York Times article points out, the interplay between genes, environment, and health is a complex one. It will take many years for researchers to sort it out.

There's also the issue of cost. The price of DNA sequencing has fallen dramatically in recent years. The human genome project, started in 1990 and completed in 2003, cost $3 billion. Just a couple of years ago, the cost of sequencing a human genome fell to $350K, then to under $100K today. Some predict that the $10K genome is just a year or two away. So by waiting just a bit you could save considerable cash, while letting the science develop.

Given these uncertain financial times, I would not be surprised if nobody bids. Were I running the auction, I'd instead sell $20 lottery tickets for the prize. Sell 5,000 tickets (which I'll bet you could do relatively quickly), and you've raised $100K. A $20 genome would be a deal, indeed.

On a related note, one part of the “Genome Sequencing Experience” is a private dinner with Harvard geneticist and sequencing pioneer, George Church (read this Wired article on Church's work). You can hear Church speak for free on May 11 or May 12 at Northwestern as part of the Silverstein Lecture Series.

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