Genes carry the information that make you you. So it's fitting that, when sequenced and stored in a computer, your genome takes up gobs of memory--up to 150 gigabytes. Multiply that across all the people who have gotten sequenced, and you're looking at some serious storage issues. If that's not enough, mining those genomes for useful insight means comparing them all to each other, to medical histories, and to the millions of scientific papers about genetics. Sorting all that out is a perfect task for artificial intelligence.
Genome-sequencing company Veritas Genetics offered the first $1,000 whole genome sequence to consumers and physicians in 2016. Now the company is ready to again push competition in the growing personal genetics industry, cutting its test pricing by 40% and closing the gap on popular genetic-testing companies 23andMe and AncestryDNA. The Veritas whole genome sequencing product "myGenome" will go down in price from $999 to $599, a new price point that the company, a 2019 CNBC Disruptor 50, thinks will lead millions of more consumers to access the company's services. "We know that all genetic tests lead to the genome," Veritas chief marketing and design officer Rodrigo Martinez said. "There is no more comprehensive genetic test than your whole genome. So this is a clear signal that the whole genome is basically going to replace all other genetic tests. And this [price drop] gets it closer and closer and closer."
A Boston-based DNA sequencing company is offering to decode the complete genomes of newborns in China, leading some to ask how much parents should know about their children's genes at birth. Veritas Genetics says the test, ordered by a doctor, will report back on 950 serious early- and later-life disease risks, 200 genes connected to drug reactions, and more than 100 physical traits a child is likely to have. Called myBabyGenome, the service costs $1,500 and could help identify serious hidden problems in newborns, the company says. But some doctors say the plan is a huge overstep. "I think it's vastly premature to peddle a completely unproven set of data, especially to a vulnerable population like neonates," says Jim Evans, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Mahni Ghorashi is the co-founder of Clear Labs, where he leads commercial activities including strategy, marketing and business development. Gaurav Garg is a founding partner of Wing Venture Capital. We've entered a new phase in the history of whole genome sequencing (WGS). Consider that researchers at University of Toronto just launched a massive project to sequence the whole genomes of 10,000 people per year. This is truly astounding when you recall that it took 13 years and $3 billion to sequence the first human genome, and that as recently as 2012 there were only 69 whole human genomes that had ever been sequenced.
Personal genetics is having a bit of a 1983 moment. Back then, the majority of Americans had never used a computer or heard the word "internet." A year later, Apple launched the Mac and the rest, as they say, is history. Purveyors of personal genetics platforms--products that tell you exactly what's in your DNA--say they are at a similar tipping point. The only question is: Who will be the Apple of individualized genomics?