Dr. Quake of Stanford University only needed $US50,000 and a month’s time to complete a genome sequencing process which previously took $US300 million, over 250 people, and several years. How cheap would Windows 7 be with this guy’s cost-cutting?
Dr. Stephen Quake and his team used a “commercially available, refrigerator-sized instrument called the Helicos Biosciences SMS Heliscope” to sequence Quake’s genome.
This machine, also known as a single molecule sequencer, is incredible. Instead of needing to generate thousands upon thousands of copies of a person’s DNA, it chops the fundamental units of DNA, the bases, into short strands, slaps them onto a specially treated glass plate, and proceeds to read the sequences.
After these steps are completed, a series of computers will assemble all the DNA strands into a genome while comparing it to previously compiled genomes. According to an algorithm used by the team, this sequencing process results in genomes which are about 95 per cent complete. (This is on par with previous sequencing technology).
While Quake’s research is important in what it represents: genome sequencing could become something used by regular health care providers to diagnose genetic predispositions to diseases (or maybe just figure out if someone’s genetic code “contains a form of a gene that has sometimes been associated with increased disagreeability”), it also does something curious: it shows a far larger decrease in cost than Moore’s law alone would suggest. The combination of better processing with a far better algorithm resulted in this dramatic progress over the past eight years and we can’t wait to see how the implementation of improved algorithms will continue to affect this trend. [Business Wire]
Photo by Helicos