Genetic Future

A couple of weeks ago I reported that personal genome sequencing company Knome had launched a publicity stunt: selling a complete genome sequence on eBay. I argued that the current information content in a human genome doesn’t come anywhere near justifying that cost for most of us, although it could potentially be worthwhile for patients suffering from a severe and undiagnosed genetic disease.

Nonetheless, the auction closed a few days ago with a single bid at the opening price of $68,000. At the time I was unsure whether the purchaser was a prankster or a genuine bidder, and that’s still a little unclear from this SciAm post:

“We don’t know who the [auction’s] winner is,” says Knome’s Ari
Kiirikki. “We know it’s a male and we know he’s from Europe.” But as
soon as the payment goes through, probably within days, the company
will learn his identity, he adds, and the unknown man will join about
20 others who have had their genes sequenced by Knome.

If the offer is genuine this will represent the lowest price yet paid for a retail genome sequence (including interpretation); many of the people I’ve spoken to at the Biology of Genomes meeting this week expect this price to fall by another order of magnitude over the next twelve months, although there are still some really non-trivial concerns about sequence quality and completeness as well as medical relevance.