Sequencing Seattle: An Idea for the Future of the Northwest
Let me make a modest proposal: Seattle should commit to sequencing and interpreting the genomes of every willing member of its population and should do it within the next five years. This program would elevate Seattle to the forefront of personalized genomic medicine, leverage many advantages unique to our area, and create a vibrant and sustainable economic engine that will drive our region for decades.
I can hear the howls of protest now, especially from the halls of the City Council and the mayor’s office. Seattle faces a lot of challenges. Like most cities, Seattle is staring at revenue shortfalls, relatively flat growth projections, and a host of problems in environment, public health, education, social services, and infrastructure. These are all pressing, immediate needs.
But at the same time, focusing too narrowly on the short term and not investing in infrastructure leaves a city’s continued relevance and growth at risk. And while the planned waterfront tunnel is an example of a commitment to physical infrastructure, I’m talking about a similar commitment to infrastructure that supports, enhances and grows human capital, which I think will be at least as important for Seattle’s future. Committing to genome sequencing is that kind of infrastructure, and when combined with the business, research and health synergies that would come out of such a commitment, this path makes a lot of sense.
Next generation DNA sequencing is a paradigm shifting technology. It’s analogous to how the creation of the integrated circuit in 1958 led to the personal computer revolution via exponential growth in processing power. Biomedical research today is undergoing radical change due to Next-generation sequencing platforms that started with Roche’s 454 in 2005 and continue today with platforms like Illumina’s HiSeq, Life Technologies’ IonProton, and others.
Over the past five years the cost of DNA sequencing has dropped at a rate that betters Moore’s law. The original human genome draft sequence cost ~$2.8 billion dollars and was announced in 2001 after a decade of work. Today, a human genome sequence can be had for about $5,000 and will arrive in as few as a couple of weeks. Most experts in the field expect the cost of a genome sequence will drop below $1,000 in the next 3-5 years, and there’s no reason for the drop in cost to end there. The $100 genome will happen.
By committing to sequencing everyone, Seattle will realize several key benefits. On an immediate level, a large part of the cost can go right back into our community. I’ll admit, $100 per genome, is a bit disingenuous. The real cost … Next Page »