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Full Genome Sequencing Offered for Under $1,000

Genetic testing illustration

(National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH)

29 September 2015. A genetics analysis company in Boston is offering full genomic sequencing, priced at under $1,000, for people willing to share the results with biomedical researchers. Veritas Genetics, a spin-off enterprise from Harvard Medical School, is making the offer to participants in the Personal Genome Project.

Genomic sequencing reveals the order of nucleic acids, the chemical building blocks, in a person’s DNA that contain’s the individual’s genetic code, providing critical information about one’s present and future health. Analysis of that genetic code requires enormous computing power to determine the sequence of the 3 billion base pairs of complementary molecules in someone’s DNA, but the cost of that computing power is steadily declining, and breaking the $1,000 cost per analysis is long considered the tipping point in making this tool more widely available.

Veritas Genetics provides technical and computational analysis for sequencing a human genome, but also offers an interpretation and report to physicians highlighting variants indicating a potential for disease. The company was co-founded by George Church, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School as well as a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute, a biomedical engineering center at Harvard. Research in Church’s lab led to many of the advances in genomic technology making lower cost sequencing possible.

Church also serves as director of the Personal Genome Project, an organization encouraging individuals to share their genomic data for research purposes, despite the risks of personal identification. In addition, Preston Estep who serves as chief scientist at Veritas Genetics is sequencing director at Personal Genome Project, while Joseph Thakuria, chief medical officer at Veritas has the same role at Personal Genome Project.

Personal Genome Project, a not-for-profit organization also spun-off from Harvard, recruits researchers to use the data and share their findings, adding to the general body of genomic knowledge. Some 16,000 individuals worldwide offer their genomic data to the Personal Genome Project; participants in the project can now have their whole genomes sequenced by Veritas Genetics, for under $1,000, which includes interpretation and genetic counseling.

In June 2015, Veritas Genetics began offering screenings for mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer. The company prices those tests at $199, which includes genetic counseling.

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