DNA testing is transforming health care and medicine, but current technologies only give a snapshot of an individual's genetic makeup. Any patient wanting a complete picture of their inherited DNA, or genome, would drop their jaw at the sight of the bill -- to the current tune of $10 million or more charged for every human or mammalian-sized genome sequenced.
Now, with a grant award from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), scientists at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University are expanding efforts to dramatically lower the cost of DNA sequencing.
The NHGRI, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has set an ambitious target of $1,000 or less - a cost 10,000 times lower than current technology - to make genome sequencing a routine diagnostic tool in medical care. The reduced cost may allow doctors to tailor medical treatments to an individual's genetic profile for diagnosing, treating, and ultimately preventing many common diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
ASU chemist Peiming Zhang and his collaborator Jian Gu have been awarded a $897,000 grant under this program for an ambitious DNA sequencing project that combines physics, chemistry and nanotechnology with engineering. The researchers have been charged with the daunting task of shrinking down the 13 year, $2.7 billion Human Genome Project to days.
"If you want to develop a technology to sequence an individual genome for $1,000, you have to think about using nanotechnology," said Zhang, associate research professor in the Center for Single Molecule Biophysics at the Biodesign Institute. "The technology is available now to pioneer a new approach to sequencing."
Much like the computer industry, DNA sequencing technology is driven by the mantra of faster, cheaper and more reliable. In the past generation, sequencing costs have fallen 100-fold, from roughly a dollar a DNA base to a penny, but
Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
Arizona State University