Illumina, the biggest maker of genomic sequencing machines, say they’ve broken the “sound barrier” of sequencing. Their latest machine can transcribe 18,000 human genomes a year for $1,000 per genome—a mark dreamed of for over a decade.
When the human genome’s three billion molecular pairs were first fully transcribed (or sequenced) in 2003, it was deemed a seminal accomplishment, but one seemingly destined to be repeated only rarely. The project’s cost totaled $2.7 billion, and the first genomes were hundreds of millions of dollars apiece.
It was around that time that the $1,000 genome was first targeted. Why $1,000? Well, it’s a nice, round, pretty much arbitrary number—a sort of mile marker set by researchers. If ever it gets that cheap, scientists thought, we’ll be able to do anything.