March 28, 2008

How much does a Genome cost?

Dollars by PfalaBack in 2003 The Human Genome cost approximately $500 million, years of work and huge international effort to produce. How much does a genome cost now, and what might it cost in the future?

Using the same technology today (2008), some people have estimated it would be 5 times cheaper, around $100 million. However, a big biotechnology company called Illumina, based in San Diego California, claim to be able to sequence an indviduals genome for just $100,000.

They can do this thanks to some British technology in the shape of the Solexa Genome Analyzer which came from an idea developed in the Chemistry department at the University of Cambridge. Illumina bought Solexa.com for the bargain-basement knock-down price of $65m (check video link below, not sure how accurate this is) $650 millon (see comments below).

Obviously, $100,000 is still a lot of money, making personal genomics the preserve of the rich, famous and well-connected. The prohibitively high cost of genome sequencing means that only the likes of Jim “Jimome” Watson and George Church can afford to peek inside their own personal blueprint.

Thanks to the challenge laid down by the Archon X-Prize, in the not too distant future we might see the cost of a genome falling to just $10,000 and maybe as low as $1000 (see references below). That’s 500,000 times cheaper and would make it affordable for many more people. Jason Bobe of The Personal Genome Project (PGP) thinks that this falling cost means we could have as many as 50 million personal genome sequences by 2015. Not so much THE human genome, but your genome.

Some of the statistics above come from Clive G. Brown who is currently busy producing 50-100 gigabases of high quality sequence data per week, working at what is currently the largest sequencing centre in the world, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Clive presented these figures in a talk: “The Solexa story” at a BBSRC workshop on the Technology Development Research Initiative (TDRI).

When it comes to the cost and volume of DNA sequencing, numbers speak louder than words. So, if the numbers were more affordable, would you want to have your genome sequenced? See Genomes Unzipped, Sequencing Costs and the disruptive power of cheap DNA sequencing for further details…


  1. Finishing the euchromatic sequence of the human genome (2004) Nature. 2004 Oct 21;431(7011):931-45. DOI:10.1038/nature03001, pubmed.gov/15496913
  2. Clyde A. Hutchinson, III (2007) DNA sequencing: bench to bedside and beyond, Nucleic Acids Resesarch; 35(18): 6227–6237. DOI:10.1093/nar/gkm688, pubmed.gov/17855400
  3. Elaine R. Mardis (2006) Anticipating the $1,000 genome Genome Biology 7(7): 112. DOI:10.1186/gb-2006-7-7-112 and pubmed.gov/17224040
  4. The Finished Human Genome – Wellcome To The Genomic Age, Sanger Press Releases: 2003-04-14
  5. The “finished” human genome, Gold Standard sequence, Sanger Press Releases: 2004-10-20
  6. Yours Truly (2007) DNA mania
  7. Emily Singer [2008] The $100 genome MIT Technology Review April 17, 2008
  8. Various Googling the Genome: The ability to digitally store, and search, personal genetic data raises a series of difficult ethical questions, Googling the Genome with TraceSearch, Really Googling the Genome and Matt Wood @ The Sanger on Zillionformatics

[Dollars! picture by Pfala]

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  1. Hi Duncan,
    as far as I know, Illumina doesn’t sequence the whole genome. It’s only(!) a genotyping paltform which allow to genotype a large number of SNP (http://www.illumina.com/pages.ilmn?ID=40). This is the technology used by 23andMe.

    PS: and I don’t want my DNA to be sequenced since I saw “Welcome In GATACA” 🙂

    Comment by PIerre LIndenbaum — March 28, 2008 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  2. Applied Biosystems can do it cheaper and faster with the new SOLiD instrument.

    Comment by Keith — March 29, 2008 @ 3:55 am | Reply

  3. Thanks Pierre and Keith for the information, I might not have been paying enough attention in the talk to know if Clive was talking about just genotyping or full-on sequencing, but this page implies that the solexa technology is at the heart of full DNA sequencing. Illumina seem to be keen on pushing that they are about morethansequencing.com too though… 🙂

    Comment by Duncan — March 29, 2008 @ 7:39 pm | Reply

  4. “The Genome Analyzer system is powered by Illumina Sequencing technology, which uses a massively parallel sequencing-by-synthesis approach to generate billions of bases of high-quality DNA sequence per run. ” , hey, you’re right Duncan ! 🙂 I didn’t know they’re now doing this stuff ! Really interesting, thanks !

    Comment by PIerre LIndenbaum — March 29, 2008 @ 9:46 pm | Reply

  5. …I should be a sales rep for Illumina…

    Comment by Duncan — March 30, 2008 @ 8:58 am | Reply

  6. Illumina purchased Solexa for $650M not $65M.

    Comment by cgb — January 19, 2009 @ 11:50 am | Reply

  7. Thanks Clive, I’ve corrected it now.

    Comment by Duncan — January 19, 2009 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

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