Sequencing looms as a game changer

Yesterday I was excited to see a feature story in the San Jose Mercury News reporting that Complete Genomics had cut the price point on full genome sequencing from $250,000 to $4,000. That's a little like saying a Lamborghini can now be had for the price of a used Kia.

It turns out that the writer for the Mercury News evidently came away with a blurred picture of what was happening. A spokesperson for the company dropped me a line, actually several, explaining that the company had cut the price point from $250,000 to $20,000 for a 40x genome (you can measure the size of a genome much like you can your waist) and was on track to hit $5,000 next year with a game plan of sequencing 10,000 genomes. Complete Genomics CEO Clifford Reid isn't shy about boasting about his company's plans. He told reporters last fall that sequencing would drop to $5,000 by the second quarter of this year. Anyway, I'm happy to set the record straight--moving from the used car lot with the orange balloons to the low-end vehicles at the Ford dealership--but I have to say I'm as excited as ever.

As anybody in the drug development world will tell you, biotechnology is not cheap. A year ago the price of sequencing was still in the same ballpark as ransoming a bank president. Complete Genomics and its rivals--Pacific Biosciences comes to mind--are jumping in to help radically restructure the economics of sequencing and change the rules of the game for many developers. By bringing an economy of scale into the picture, developers will have a much better understanding of what causes disease and how to target those triggers with pinpoint efficiency.

Done right, economic sequencing offers developers an opportunity to cut costs. Enrolling smaller groups of patients in clinical trials that have a more tightly defined objective allows developers the chance to budget for those added sequencing costs against lower trial expenses. In short order, we'll be living in a world where this becomes a routine, and widely expected, strategy. If you're not planning for it now, I'd suggest you take a good hard look at what's coming.

On another note, I'm setting up a webinar for late October that looks at deal-making trends. After the IPO window was slammed shut and some of the venture funds developed a bad case of cold feet last year, new drug partnerships became more important than ever before. I'm looking for a couple of professionals who can help put all this into perspective with a nitty-gritty analysis of the trends. If you have some thoughts on whom we should invite for the panel, drop me a line. - John Carroll, Editor-in-Chief