Why you’ll likely have your DNA sequenced in 5 years

Updated. The costs of DNA analysis and genome sequencing are fast decreasing while the amount of data created by such activities is nearing the one petabyte — or a thousand terabytes — barrier. Is it possible then that most people will be likely to have their DNA profile within the next 5 years? Yes it is, according to one expert.

Andreas Sundquist, CEO and co-founder of DNAnexus, suggested this to the entire audience at Structure:Data in New York City on Thursday, adding that “Ten years from now, sequencing will be standard. The test will just be a run of some software.” What makes Sundquist’s claims possible is both the advances in big data techniques and heavy use of the cloud.

Thanks to these two solutions, it now costs a few thousand dollars fewer than $1,000 to sequence a genome; the cost had decreased by a million-fold over the years, even as each genome sequence creates a terabyte of data. So far, around 20,000 genomes have been sequenced world-wide, but the pace increases as the cost falls. And next year, Sundquist expects that 100,000 genomes will be sequenced.

Helping to speed up sequencing efforts is access to and the scalability of the cloud. Most hospitals and medical centers don’t have the budgets to create massive data centers to process or store genome data.

By sending data directly to the cloud from a sequencing machine, there’s no need for medical facilities to manage or process it. And it’s easier to collaborate on DNA data; Sundquist says “Sharing data with other people is simply switching a few bits by adding access, instead of moving the data itself.” That’s important given that he sees the amount of sequencing to grow 10-fold every 2 years.

In the not-too-distant future then, children with a genetic disorder or people with a cancerous tumor could quickly and cheaply have sequencing tests run. And beyond those types of immediate needs, everyone can benefit over the next 5 to 10 years as we use the power of big data and cloud to crack the secrets of our genetic code.

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