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Why Not Sequence?

In an opinion piece published in Nature, George Church wonders why so few people are willing to have their genomes sequenced in spite of the technology's plummeting costs and improved accuracy.

Church writes that while "we should avoid being judgmental of people who practice genomic modesty or who choose not to act on genome information … we should also ask if we are providing adequate and equal access to education about the benefits and risks of genome information."

He sees the decision this past summer to cancel the $10 million Archon Genomics X Prize, though disappointing, as an opportunity to address some of "the problems and misunderstandings" that still dog genomics — namely that sequencing is expensive, inaccurate, that results are not interpretable and useful, and claims of potential harm.

He writes that "it is important for those of us at the sharp end of work on genomics to work equally hard at conversations with the public." Furthermore, he adds, "as we share more of our genetics and as we develop genomic progress into precision medicine, researchers and the public alike need frank assessments of all of these tests and treatments."