Sequencing Genomes

How much will it cost to sequence a genome in 10 years?

DNA strands

Over the past twenty five years, advances in the field of genomics have led to substantial reductions in the cost of genome sequencing. The underlying costs associated with different methods and strategies for sequencing genomes are of great interest because they influence the scope and scale of almost all genomics research projects. With the growing scale of human genetics studies and the increasing number of clinical applications for genome sequencing, even greater attention is being paid to understanding the underlying costs of generating a human genome sequence.

In 2000, the estimated cost of generating the initial ‘draft’ human genome sequence was ~$300 million worldwide. Three years later, the ‘draft’ was further refined and produced a finished human genome sequence at 50% of the original cost. Based on data collected by NHGRI, the cost to generate a high-quality ‘draft’ human genome sequence had dropped to ~$14 million by 2006. With the advent of next-generation DNA sequencing, prices had dropped even further. By mid-2015 the cost to generate a high-quality ‘draft’ whole human genome sequence was just above $4,000; later that same year, the figure had fallen below $1,500 (see figure 1).

The cost of sequencing is falling more than twice as quickly as the cost of computing, so the cost of sequencing has more to do with data analysis than data collection. According to Illumina, it is “expected one day” that whole genome sequencing will cost less than $100, a 200% decrease from the beginning of the project. Do we think this will happen in the next 10 years? Probably. Innovation and the constant evolution in genome-sequencing technologies and strategies does not appear to be slowing down, and as a result the associated costs will also likely continue to be dynamic, including data analysis.

Figure 1: Cost per Genome
Cost per Genome chart

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