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Knome and X Prize Foundation to Sell Personal Genome Sequence at Auction; Bidding Starts at $68K

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This story has been updated from a previous version posted April 23 to include additional information.

Personal genomics company Knome and the X Prize Foundation are jointly auctioning off sequencing and analysis services for an individual's genome, the partners said last week.

Bidding for the service, provided by Knome, started on eBay Friday with a minimum bid of $68,000, and will run until May 4. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the X Prize Foundation.

Knome is participating in the project "to help raise awareness" of the X Prize Foundation's Archon X Prize for Genomics, which promises $10 million to the first team to sequence and assemble 100 human genomes within 10 days to certain specifications (see GenomeWeb Daily News 10/23/2006).

The firm launched its whole-genome sequencing and analysis service in November of 2007 (see In Sequence 10/30/2007) for at least $350,000 but has since lowered its price. According to the auction website, the "retail value" of the service is now $99,500.

The highest auction bidder will receive a copy of his or her genome sequence, along with a comprehensive analysis, provided by Knome scientists and through the company's KnomeExplorer genome browser software. Two years of analysis update services are also included.

In addition, the winner will participate in a roundtable discussion with a number of Knome geneticists, clinicians, and bioinformaticians to learn more about their sequence, disease associations with genetic variations, and advances in genomics research in general.

The winner will also have a private dinner with Harvard Medical School professor George Church, co-founder and chief scientific advisor of Knome, and will be accommodated at a luxury hotel in Boston for four nights.

Knome outsources its sequencing services to the Beijing Genomics Institute. In January of 2008, Knome struck a deal with BGI, giving it "exclusive access" to the institute's genome sequencing, assembly, and annotation capabilities (see In Sequence 1/15/2008).

BGI's main second-generation sequencing platform has been the Illumina Genome Analyzer, and a Knome spokesperson confirmed last week that this is the platform the company uses for its service.

After adding 12 additional units that it recently committed to purchase, BGI will have 29 units installed at several locations. Last fall, BGI published the genome sequence of a Han Chinese individual, sequenced on the Illumina platform (see In Sequence 11/11/2008).

The Knome spokesperson declined to provide technical details on how customers' genomes are sequenced and analyzed, such as the degree of completion, or the average fold-coverage.

According to Knome's website, its analysis reports cover more than 1,500 genes and over 400 conditions, and the company conducts "carrier screening for rare genetic disorders and generate[s] a pharmacogenomic profile" to determine an individual's response to certain drugs. In addition, Knome will create "customized reports for specific traits and conditions at the request of our clients."

However, a disclaimer on the auction website states that Knome's services "are not, nor are they intended to be, medical advice or a test designed to diagnose disease or any medical conditions."

According to the website, the services are "for research, informational, and educational use only," and are not intended to be used "to diagnose, cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent disease or other impairment or condition, or to ascertain the winning bidder's or any other person's health."

"Genetic discoveries that Knome reports have not, for the most part, been clinically validated," the website states.

As of press time on April 28, no bids had been placed yet in the auction.

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