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The Real Cost of Sequencing

So, just what is happening to the price of sequencing?

Blogger and manager of the Genomics Core at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute James Hadfield takes up the question this week in response to a recent flurry of commentary on the subject.

It all began with a May article in Genome Biology by University of Liverpool researcher Neil Hall and a follow-up blog post by University of Edinburgh researcher Mick Watson both discussing what appears to be a rather sudden halt to the famous headlong plummet of sequencing costs.

This was followed around a month later by a CNN Money story by Eilene Zimmerman (also cited by the Daily Scan at the time), that, in seeming contradiction to the two aforementioned pieces, enthusiastically predicted the coming of not only a $1,000 genome, but a $100 genome.

So, where does Hadfield come down on the matter?

Like a number of researchers who commented on the story, he says that the CNN Money piece gives "an all too rosy picture" of the trajectory of sequencing costs. However, he notes, "the costs of [next-generation sequencing] are still coming down and are likely to drop for longer."

In particular, he cites Illumina's HiSeq 2500, noting that the instrument's ability to generate larger amounts of data in a given period of time "means the amortization of capital purchase and service contract costs drop, and these are a huge chuck of our real costs."