The cost of sequencing a human genome has fallen below $10,000 for the first time, a feat which has the potential to transform research costs and, eventually, therapeutic strategies. The new sequencers, made by San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN), up the ante in an ever-quickening race between Illumina and its competitors, such as Life Technologies (NASDAQ:LIFE), Helicos (HLCS) and Pacific Biosciences, to knock down the cost of whole-genome sequencing while improving speed and ease of use.
A Beijing genomics institute, BGI is purchasing 128 of the new HiSeq 2000 sequencing systems to aid $1.5 billion of research in the areas of sustainable development, healthcare, agriculture and bio-energy. The buy represents the largest single order of such systems to date, Illumina said.
“To study complex diseases you need to look at a lot of samples and do that, ideally, in a cost effective and rapid manner,” says Omead Ostadan, Illumina's vice president of marketing. “If you look at the three tech axes that matter: speed, cost effectiveness and ease of use in the workflow, HiSeq 2000 improves all of those areas.”
Scientists have long hoped small groups of genetic markers might serve as indicators of heightened risk for particular diseases. But recent studies have suggested the genetic signature of many risk factors may lie in combinations of thousands of genes, boosting the benefit of cost-effective options for attaining a person's complete genome.
Genome mapping costs are likely to fall even further in the future. A single human genome map had cost about $50,000 until now and took about a month to be completed. The HiSeq will allow researchers to cut that time to about eight days.