Among the many stents, surgical clamps, pumps and other medical devices that have recently come before the Food and Drug Administration for clearance, none has excited the widespread hopes of physicians and researchers like a machine called the Illumina MiSeqDx.
This compact DNA sequencer has the potential to change the way doctors care for patients by making personalized medicine a reality, experts say.
"It's about time," said Michael Snyder, director of the Stanford Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine.
Physicians who rely on genetic tests to guide their patients' treatment have had to order scans that reveal only small parts of a patient's genome, as if peeking through a keyhole, Snyder said: "Why would you study just a few genes when you can see the whole thing?"
Back in 2000, when the Human Genome Project completed its first draft of the 3 billion base pairs that make up a person's DNA, the effort took a full decade and cost close to $100 million. The Illumina MiSeqDx can pull off the same feat in about a day for less than $5,000 — and the results will be more accurate, two of the nation's top physicians gushed in the New England Journal of Medicine.
That confluence of "faster, cheaper and better" is likely to accelerate the use of genetic information in everyday medical care, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, wrote last month. DNA sequencing should guide physicians in choosing the best drug to treat a specific patient for a specific disease while risking the fewest side effects.