The genetic revolution takes aim at the pipeline

Six years ago, sequencing a genome cost hundreds of millions of dollars. This year, a variety of tech companies like Complete Genomics, Pacific Biosciences and Knome competed avidly to bring the price down to the thousands. And in the process they are creating a whole new set of rules for drug discovery.

We've been hearing for the entire decade that personalized medicines are the wave of the future. Well, in terms of R&D, the future has arrived. Just last week, researchers announced that they had sequenced two of the most common types of cancer. That kind of knowledge will inspire much better drug development work.  

By bringing sequencing costs down and making it affordable to scientists, researchers can better determine not only which specific patient populations are likely to benefit, they can also steer clear of patients who might experience adverse events. Knome unveiled a new service just weeks ago in which it not only will undertake sequencing work, but will also provide data analysis in a matter of weeks.

A whole new industry is trying to get going by selling genetic tests to consumers. But we also learned with the financial trouble reported at companies like DeCode Genetics that that retail business still faces a long ramp-up time. Researchers, though, will increasingly be expected to arrive at the FDA with some sophisticated genetic data on their new drugs. Attendance at the R&D revolution is not optional.