Gattaca becomes reality – all babies to be DNA sequenced at birth by 2020?

digital rendering of DNAA genetics outfit named Illumina is preparing to launch an affordable genetic mapping service in the next couple of years. Its first few customers can expect to pay between US$10,000 and US$20,000 for a complete mapping of every gene in their DNA, but their chief executive has told The Times that by 2020 the equipment should be so affordable that all newborns will have their genomes sequenced at birth:

“The limitations are sociological; when and where people think it can be applied, the concerns people have about misinformation and the background ethics questions.

“I think those are actually going to be the limits that push it out to a ten-year timeframe,” he added.

Of course, he’s bound to be positive about the prospects; CEO of the company isn’t exactly a disinterested position. But I think that’s a pretty plausible timeframe, if only so far as the capability is concerned.

And there will be resistance to the idea, even if the Gattaca comparison is rather overstated. Given the UK government’s current obsession with storing the minutia of its citizen’s lives, I’d be worried about letting them have my entire genetic sequence – though not because of what they would use it for so much as that I couldn’t trust them not to leave it in a briefcase on a rush-hour train

Even that makes light of a potentially sticky ethical quagmire, though; we won’t get to see everything that’s hidden in Pandora’s box until we actually open the lid. Let’s just hope we’ve gotten over our little global obsession with copyright and intellectual property by the time the street-corner sequencer shacks open for business, eh? [story via FuturePundit; image by ynse]

3 thoughts on “Gattaca becomes reality – all babies to be DNA sequenced at birth by 2020?”

  1. So at what point do we see genome-horror a la “The Omen” or “Rosemary’s Baby,” wherein the parents know that the baby has a “psychopath gene,” and spend his toddlerhood under the pall of dread, waiting for him to inevitably snap? (Surely someone’s already written this story.)

  2. As far as the capability is concerned, 2020 is a pessimistic prediction. The $10,000 genome is just about here already, and a $1,000 genome doesn’t seem out of the question even with present technology, never mind whatever the next generation does.

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