This week Complete Genomics of Mountain View, CA, announced that it had fully sequenced 14 individual genomes, almost doubling the number of people who have had nearly every C, T, A, and G in their bodies decoded and published.
The company hasn’t said how much this preliminary round of genomic sequencing cost, although last year it announced that it had sequenced a genome for $4,000. And CEO Clifford Reid says the company will soon start charging $20,000 per genome for an order of eight genomes or more, and $5,000 apiece for an order of 1,000 or more-with variable pricing in between. The sequencing technology involved is gearing up to run one genome per day per instrument, Reid says, with an accuracy that is comparable to the sequences published last year using technology developed by San Diego-based Illumina, which charged about $250,000 to sequence that genome.
Complete Genomics’s customers include Duke University, in Durham, NC; Brigham & Women’s Hospital, in Boston; the Institute for Systems Biology, in Seattle; and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, in Cambridge, MA. “I think this mainly matters because it is real,” says Robert Cook-Deagan of Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. “It’s kind of amazing if they can do what they say.”
Having one’s complete genome sequenced is far more thorough than the scans done by companies such as 23andMe (also in Mountain View) and DeCodeMe, in Iceland. These companies offer direct-to-consumer testing of a person’s DNA for between $399 and $985. But they test only about a million genetic markers out of the six billion nucleotides that reside inside human cells.
Founded in 2006, Complete Genomics uses technology developed primarily by chief scientific officer Radoje Drmanac, a key scientist for the Department of Energy during the Human Genome Project and a cofounder of Hyseq, a gene-discovery and drug company. The technology employs array-chips that are extremely dense and use chemicals to separate out the DNA, special enzymes to join them together, and imaging methods to identify them–patented processes that Reid says have dramatically reduced costs.
But Complete Genomics is not itself in the business of genetic research. Instead, says Reid, it is a data vendor. “We are complete agnostics in terms of what the data is used for,” Reid says.