When you can sequence an entire human genome for less than $5,000, and the price is diving fast to $1,000, what kinds of questions will your doctor be able to ask about you?
Once all the DNA sequences get generated, and software companies start figuring out better ways to analyze/interpret/visualize all the data, then the medical people are going to get involved in a much bigger way. The real-world uses of all this genomic data is one of the fascinating areas we’re going to explore during Xconomy’s next big event in San Francisco, “Computing in the Age of the $1,000 Genome” on Oct. 24.
We have a tremendous group of speakers for the genomic medicine part of the event. Here’s who you can expect to hear from:
—Atul Butte, the chief of systems medicine at Stanford University and an associate professor in the department of pediatrics at Stanford’s School of Medicine. Butte made the point at a recent genomics conference that an entire human genome sequence costs less than a colonoscopy. The natural retort is that we don’t yet know how to interpret the information from a whole genome, while doctors have a much better idea of what to do with colonoscopy results. I’m sure Butte has a ready response to that one, because he isn’t just waxing philosophical about this—he’s working to make genomic data useful through his work as a co-founder of a new Palo Alto, CA-based genomic interpretation startup, called Personalis.
—Ashley Dombkowski, the chief business officer of Mountain View, CA-based 23andMe. Quite a few biologists snickered at 23andMe in its early days, saying it provided a high-priced and basically useless service for helping patients learn more about their ancestry, genetic quirks, and some iffy predisposition to certain health risks. Not as many scientists are laughing anymore, now that the price for its service has dropped all the way from $999 to $99, and the company suddenly has built a database with more than 100,000 users who can be tapped for questionnaires. Dombkowski, who has a PhD in mathematics, saw the development of the company when she invested in it for MPM Capital. In July, she went in-house as 23andMe’s chief business officer, working on partnerships.
—David Ewing Duncan, the author of the 2009 book “Experimental Man.” Duncan, who also writes for Fortune, Technology Review, and National Geographic, has personally subjected himself to an incredible number of genetic tests. And if you’ve read the book, you can see this isn’t some kind of “recreational genetics” or celebrity vanity project—he actually seeks to understand what all this emerging genetic information really means for his future health and that of his family. These questions might seem irrelevant today, but I’m confident that as sequencing gets cheaper, it will go mainstream, and many, many more people are going to be asking the same kind of questions Duncan was asking years ago. So I’m excited to have him serving as the moderator this panel with Butte and Dombkowski.
That’s it for this portion of a much bigger half-day event. This medical discussion will come after moderated chats with the people creating much of this new sequence data, and with folks who are building software companies to interpret the deluge of data. We will close with a great keynote chat about the broader societal implications for privacy, and humanity—which I’ll say more about in coming days.
As always with Xconomy events, we will leave time for you to pose your questions to the speakers, and provide plenty of time for networking with them and other attendees. You can get your tickets on the registration page here, where there are discounts for startup companies, and students. See you there on the 24th.