Tute turns to crowdfunding to offer personal whole genome sequencing service

Tute Genomics is crowdfunding a personalized DNA sequencing program. The campaign is aiming to raise $100,000 by offering whole genome sequencing for between $999 and $1,499, a model that effectively makes the project a referendum on whether costs are now low enough to attract consumers.

Early signs are good. The fundraising total surged halfway to the $100,000 goal in approximately one day, leaving Tute with more than one month to pull in close to $50,000. If Tute falls short of its goal, all the money will be returned to backers and none of the sequencing services will be provided, an approach that is common to crowdfunding projects run on Kickstarter.

While, at first glance, the rapid raising of more than $50,000 makes such an outcome look unlikely, there are reasons to believe it will take longer to pull in the rest of the money. The initial surge in funding was driven by early bird offers that allowed people to have their exome sequenced for $399 and their full genome done for $999.

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Those offers, and other, slightly-more-expensive deals, have expired because they hit a preset cap on the number of backers. At the time of writing, 17 more people can take up Tute’s offer of $429 exome sequencing, but the whole genome sequencing service is at the list price of $1,499. There is no cap on how many people who can buy at this price, but, as of the time of writing, only one person has bitten.

Tute will need that to change over the coming 40 days if it is to reach its fundraising goal. The list price of $1,499 is above the $1,000 mark that for years stood as the holy grail of genome sequencing, and, perhaps more importantly, is more than George Church’s Veritas Genomics charges for its service. Veritas began offering whole genome sequencing in March for $999.

Backers of the Tute Kickstarter campaign will also gain access to the company’s genome portal, a resource that is available for $70 on a standalone basis to people who have already had their DNA sequenced. Tute describes the portal as helping users to “distinguish the genes that harbor potential risks,” although it also repeatedly distances itself from claims that could attract the attention of FDA.

Assuming the project is fully funded, Tute will send out spit kits, sequence samples using “Illumina or equivalent next-gen sequencing method”--the specification sheet is for an Illumina ($ILMN) HiSeq X system--and provide people with their data and access to a genome portal. That portal is called Knome, after the genomics trailblazer Tute bought for its software late last year.