In 1990 the Human Genome Project began, it was an international collaborative effort to perform the first full sequencing of all 3 billion nucleotide pairs of the human genome, which would allow researchers to develop novel techniques to target and cure disease. The project would take 13 years and cost roughly $1b to sequence a complete genome. Today, due to the advancement of gene sequencing technology, this same process can be completed for as little as $1,000 and within a day.

This dramatic drop in price means it now costs $1M less than it did in 2003 to sequence an entire human genome, a precipitous drop in price that is helping to drive the advent of personalised medicine ever closer. Cheap genome sequencing will allow for the generation of vast libraries of human genomes that will allow scientists to discover and isolate genes that are the causes or the targets of diseases such as cancer.

Genome sequencing price drop to continue

These vast libraries can then be used to compare an individual’s own genome or a cancer genome for tailor-made therapies that will have the greatest efficacy. Indeed, companies such as Google and Microsoft are already developing vast genome libraries that aim to encompass the most common diseases that affect humans across the world.

This massive leap in sequencing capability and the potential future applications of this technology will be a major advancement in the field of medicine that will impact all levels of society. Such is the impact of this technology that GlobalData analysts are predicting that genomics companies could someday be as big as the largest pharmaceutical companies and may even come to dominate the pharmaceutical industry.

Genome sequencing is getting ever cheaper; in fact, leading genomic company Illumina suggests it can bring the price below $100 within two years. However, genomic analysis still remains eye-wateringly expensive at approximately $35,000. So while the sequencing of the human genome may become commonplace within the next several years, the vast majority of people won’t be able to afford any relevant analysis. As such, truly personalised medicine is still a ways off, but this decrease in the cost of sequencing is a key milestone in the development of personalised medicine that demonstrates that this can and will be a reality in the near future.