Oxford Nanopore's announcement of its new whole-genome sequencing technology has set the genomics world talking once again about the $1,000 genome and how it could change research and healthcare. It "has the promise of taking the enterprise of sequencing an individual's genome out of the basic science laboratory, and out to the consumer mass market," says Razib Khan at The Crux blog. "From what I gather the hype is not just vaporware; it's a foretaste of what's to come." But the particular device isn't really the point, Khan says. The point is that "we're on the cusp of the age when genomics becomes banal, and cutting-edge science becomes everyday utility," he adds.
Not everyone is enthusiastic at the idea of the $1,000 genome. At the Washington Post, Ezra Klein warns that such cheap technology would herald the destruction of the health insurance industry. Eventually, with sequencing becoming cheaper, genomic testing could become the norm to predict future illness. "Those with a clean genomic result might go for a cheap catastrophic plan, while those with a high risk of developing pricey illnesses will opt for more comprehensive insurance," Klein says. "The result would be, in insurance terms, an 'adverse-selection death spiral,' as the healthy opt out of expensive insurance, the sick opt into it, and premiums spin out of control."
At the National Review, Reihan Salam says Klein's argument makes "a good deal of sense." While cheaper technologies could deliver cheaper medical care, he adds, "this might actually require some level of cost-consciousness on the part of the public."