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James Watson did it. So did Craig Venter. Now you can too. On Thursday, Knome, a personal-genomics startup based in Cambridge, MA, announced the launch of the first commercial whole-genome sequencing service. Only 20 people will get to be part of Knome’s first sequencing flight; interested parties can find out more here.

While the price tag is likely to be out of reach for all but a lucky few, the cost is significantly cheaper than Watson’s $1 million genome or the Human Genome Project’s $3 billion effort. “Only very recently have costs come down to a level where it is now feasible for private individuals to be sequenced and analyzed. We expect this evolution to quickly usher in a new era in personalized medicine,” said George Church, a cofounder of the firm and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, in a press release from the company.

Knome’s announcement follows several other major personal-genomics offerings in the past few weeks. Three companies–deCode Genomics, based in Iceland, and the much-hyped startups 23andMe and Navigenics, both based in California–announced new gene-analysis services. However, those companies offer microarray-based analysis, meaning that they will search your DNA for a million specific genetic variations rather than read the entire sequence.

According to Knome’s press release,

Whole-genome sequencing decodes the 6 billion bits of information that make up an individual’s genome. Unlike existing genome scanning or “SNP chip” technologies that provide useful but limited information on approximately 20 conditions, whole-genome sequencing allows for the analysis of up to 2,000 common and rare conditions, and over 20,000 genes–numbers that are rapidly growing.

Jorge Conde, the firm’s CEO, said,

“Whole-genome sequencing is the endgame … It will enable us to look at nearly 100% of your genetic code compared to the less than 0.02% currently available on SNP chips. This is the approach that most fully reveals what our genomes can tell us about ourselves.”

Of course, the microarray services are significantly cheaper, ranging from approximately $1,000 to $2,500.

According to VentureBeat (post here), Knome already has lots of interest.

Knome has received more expressions of interest in being sequenced than it has capacity to process at the moment. As a result, it has limited initial enrollment to 20 people, who will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis once they’ve completed an initial screening step.

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Tagged: Biomedicine, sequencing, genomics, personalized medicine

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