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'Not a Panacea'

Both whole-genome sequencing and big data have to be used with caution, Walter Gilbert, who shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his sequencing work, tells the Conversation.

Though he is hopeful that whole-genome sequencing will soon be inexpensive enough that it could be performed at local drug stores for a few hundred dollars, Gilbert, who is a professor at Harvard University, cautions that it's not accurate enough for medical diagnosis. "I got my own genome sequenced, but they missed the local rearrangements in my genome — it was not well-curated," he says.

Similarly, Gilbert tells the Conversation that big data could be useful for finding links between genes and disease, but that it has to be interpreted with care. A statistically significant finding, he notes, isn't necessarily biologically significant. "[I]t is definitely not a panacea," he says.