Saturday, August 16, 2008

Know Your Genome

Apparently the only company that will sequence your entire genome is located in Cambridge.

The cost? $350,000. (That's $150,000 more that it costs for Virgin Galactic to fly you into space.)

The company, Knome, was the focus of my Boston Globe column earlier this week. Is there any benefit, in mid-2008, to having your DNA decoded?

From the piece:

    These are the rip-roaring Wild West days for companies peddling genomic information to consumers, offering insights about the twisted nucleic acids that make us who we are - and also those trying to bring down the cost of sequencing an entire genome.

    Some believe the large-scale gathering of genetic information will remake the way healthcare is practiced and shift its focus from treating disease and chronic conditions to staving them off. Others, such as genetics researcher David Altshuler of the Broad Institute, liken it, at least in the near-term, to the recent rage in whole-body CT scanning for healthy people. Genomic analysis may identify potential problems that don't ever become real maladies, but generate all sorts of unnecessary diagnostic tests and procedures.

Here's the video -- a chat with Knome CEO Jorge Conde.

Wired has a wonderful profile of Knome founder George Church (written by Thomas Goetz) that begins...

    George Church is dyslexic, narcoleptic, and a vegan. He is married with one daughter, weighs about 210 pounds, and has worn a pioneer-style bushy beard for decades. He has elevated levels of creatine kinase in his blood, the consequence of a heart attack. He enjoys waterskiing, photography, rock climbing, and singing in his church choir. His mother's maiden name is Strong. He was born on August 28, 1954.

    If this all seems like too much information, well, blame Church himself.

Side note: Conde pronounces the name of the company, Knome, like it rhymes with "gnome." Church pronounces it "know-me." Conde says with a smile that Church must be more influential, since he hears far more people pronouncing it the Church way.

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