The concept of the $1,000 genome is "misleading," says Laura Hercher on the genetic counseling blog The DNA Exchange.
Hercher, a faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College, acknowledges that the cost of sequencing is dropping rapidly, but notes that the "$1,000 genome" doesn't mean that "getting your DNA sequenced will cost $1,000" because the number "covers only renewables — those things like reagents and chips that are consumed in the process of sequencing. It does not include the cost of the sequencer or the cost of the tech who runs the sequencer. It does not cover overhead or profits. And most of all, it does not cover the costs associated with interpretation, without which a DNA sequence is merely an endless stream of A's, C's, T's and G's."
While much-hyped efforts like Mike Snyder's analysis of his own genome, which predicted that he had a high risk for diabetes, are commendable, "Snyder had available to him levels of expertise and medical care that are not in any way typical," Hercher says. "For much of America, paying for routine medical care is a challenge, and paying for acute or chronic medical care the most likely cause of personal bankruptcy."
Furthermore, she says, "Even people with money to spare don't usually get a sit-down with George Church to discuss their most disturbing sequence variants."
Hercher says that the $1,000 genome "is an enormous technical achievement" but warns that the scientific community should not "confuse people about what it means."
"The meme that represents the future of genetics should not be a bait-and-switch," she says.