Genome technology is becoming more affordable, but at what cost?
The Cost of a Genome
The first human genome was sequenced in 2003 at a cost of over $1 billion. But due to the advance of next-generation DNA sequencing technologies, this is now available for under $1,000. According to Forbes, this figure may be less than $100 in under 10 years.
Thanks to advances in next generation DNA sequencing technologies and genomic data analytics, we are able to make better sense of genomic data. Subsequently, we can diagnose existing diseases, develop targeted treatment strategies and assess predisposition to disease. There is even talk of predicting life expectancy alongside personalised recommendations for clinical monitoring and lifestyle changes.
What Do We Do With This Information?
The relative affordability of this service could point towards a future where healthcare can be tailored specifically to each individual. However, DNA is an extremely personal and valuable piece of information. Currently, this type of data is being handed over to companies without consumers knowing the full consequences or risk. For example, direct-to-consumer testing kits are developing faster than the legal policies which protect the data. In this model, once you spit in a tube you no longer have an ownership stake in the valuable asset that is your DNA, or have any control in who gets access to it. The company can then go on to share the data with third parties including pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
How to Protect Your DNA
A London based company, Genomes.io thinks that they might have developed a future proof way for consumers to learn about themselves and benefit others without putting themselves at risk. They have launched the first user-owned DNA bank on Indiegogo, offering users full ownership, control and access to their genomic data.
The account provides all of the regular over the counter DNA reporting (e.g. carrier status reports, ancestry, health and medication etc) but in addition, they offer their users the opportunity to grant secure access to medical research and other good causes. They are also planning to enable their users to ‘earn’ through providing access to secure snippets of data to pharmaceutical and biotech companies, should the user wish.