19 March 2008

The first customers of individual genomes

Marina Astvatsaturyan, Echo of Moscow

An American company engaged in decoding personal genomes has its first private clients, and these are the first people in the world to order such a "luxury item" as complete information about their own genome.

The genomic company that 2 individuals applied to is called Knome Inc. It is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and works together with the Beijing Genomics Institute, Asia's largest genetic information decoding center, which has participated in global projects such as the International Human Genome Project and the consortium to identify point genetic differences between HapMap populations.

To date, there have been only 3 personal decoded genomes, and all of them belong to scientists – Nobel laureate James Watson, biologist-entrepreneur Craig Venter and an anonymous employee of the Beijing Genomic Institute.

According to Knome, two new customers are also anonymous, however, according to the New York Times, one of them is a Swiss millionaire of Romanian origin, 56–year-old Dan Stoicescu, a former scientist and retired owner of a biotechnology company. The cost of one genome for a private person today is 350 thousand dollars (the market price of a small Moscow apartment). This amount includes not only the decoding of the sequence of all the genes of the organism, but also a comprehensive analysis of the information received by geneticists, clinicians and bioinformatics. Clearly, this analysis is limited by today's capabilities.

"We expect to complete the sequencing process (i.e. decoding the complete genetic sequence) for our customers in the coming months," Zhuo Li, vice president for International Cooperation of the American company and the Beijing Institute, said in a press statement. "We have one of the strongest targets for this important task for humanity in the world of teams, which includes more than 100 high-class bioinformatics."

Scientists are confident that sequencing of complete genomes will certainly lead to a breakthrough in biomedical research and will increase the level of our understanding of the genetic component in human behavior and diseases. A year ago, the cost of sequencing an individual genome was about $ 1 million, during this decade the American federal government intends to reduce it to $ 1 thousand.

Dan Stoic in an interview with the New York Times said that it is better to spend money on your genome than on an airplane or a Bentley car. The client assures that now he will track discoveries related to genetic predisposition to diseases, checking with the genomic sequence received at hand, and will do this on a daily basis, just as it is customary to monitor stock quotes.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru19.03.2008

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