Four companies lead genome sequencing race

Whatever else could be said about the controversial J. Craig Venter, you could never claim that the scientist thinks small. With a story circulating in the Guardian that Venter's institute has created artificial life in the form of a fully synthetic chromosome--a report that has raised eyebrows and some skepticism--Venter is also beavering away at moving the goal posts in the quest for a more commercially feasible method to decode DNA. Only last summer Venter heralded his genetic blueprint after spending years and $60 million to do it. Now he's set out to do it again by the end of December for the bargain basement price of less than $300,000--major progress in a race to drive the price down to less than $10,000.

The Wall Street Journal examined the chances of four leading contenders competing for a $10 million prize--Venter is putting up $500,000--in hitting that target: Illumina, Applied Biosystems, 454 Life Sciences and Helicos BioSciences. The original program to decode the human genome cost $3 billion, but getting the cost down to a matter of thousands of dollars could open a new era of personalized medicine that would revolutionize the way therapies are prescribed.

- read the Wall Street Journal article on sequencing (sub. req.)
- and here's a dose of skepticism on the latest news regarding artificial life

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