December 14, 2011

NOTHING COSTS MORE THAN IT USED TO:

5 Disruptive Technologies Happening Now (Antonio Regalado, 12/14/11, Technology Review)

Genetic switch: We've heard a lot about the plummeting cost of decoding DNA. Unraveling the first human genome in 2001 cost more than $3 billion; today the price would be closer to $10,000. This year, a Pulitzer Prize was awarded for stories that documented how one family, baffled by their son's mysterious illness, simply had his entire genome analyzed to determine the cause.

The profound medical impacts are accompanied by disruptions in the $1.5 billion market for DNA sequencing. The newcomers are companies such as Ion Torrent, whose "Personal Genome Machine" is pictured. The $50,000 sequencer is among a breed of fast, cheap DNA decoders that are replacing more costly machines that use the gold-standard technology called capillary-gel electrophoresis. The new machines use different chemistry, and come with trade-offs: they are less accurate and read out DNA in shorter bits (a problem if you are trying to puzzle together a human genome with three billion DNA letters). Yet as fast-and-dirty DNA reading has improved, the industry is being swept by changes. One of the most remarkable: many researchers don't even buy sequencing machines any longer. Instead, when they need DNA decoded, they ship it out to mail-order laboratories that return results in a few days.



Posted by at December 14, 2011 5:47 AM
  

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