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The Coming Changes

While predictions for the future can be laughably wrong, especially in a high-paced field like genomics, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute's Chris Tyler-Smith notes that they still can be "irresistible." In PLOS Biology, seven researchers offer their vision of the future.

BGI-Shenzen's Huanming Yang, for instance, says that the sequencing of a million people, both healthy and not, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds "will lay the foundation of medicine and health care for the rest of the century." Yang sees a world in which personalized protocols are used and in which metagenomics moves into the clinic.

Similarly, Stanford University's Michael Snyder says genomics will enable healthcare to move from a reactive to a proactive model in which people use their omic data to lower their risk of developing disease, and Elaine Mardis from Washington University in St. Louis says miniaturized monitoring devices will also help identify cell-free DNA that may enable an early detection of a pregnancy or of disease.

At the same time, Laura Landweber from Princeton University and Gil McVean from the University of Oxford anticipate strides in basic biology stemming from genomic advances. Landweber says researchers will garner a better understanding of genome architecture, while McVean says more genomes from a variety of species will inform studies of evolution.

"Just bear in mind that the future will almost certainly be stranger and, consequently, even more exciting," Tyler-Smith adds.

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