Fact of the Week: The Cost To Sequence a Human Genome Decreased More than 99.999 Percent Between 2000 and 2016

July 30, 2018

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The cost to sequence a human genome decreased more than 99.999 percent from $300 million in 2000 to $1,500 in 2016.

Source: National Human Genome Research Institute, “The Cost of Sequencing a Human Genome,” July 6, 2016.

Commentary: The future of medicine lies in better understanding the human genome and how our bodies function at the most basic level, and that requires reliable and inexpensive genome sequencing. The Human Genome Project took years to complete the first full human genome sequence at a cost of $300 million, which was primarily underwritten by the National Institute of Health. Subsequent technological breakthroughs, such as fluorescent labelling and programs capable of reconstructing smaller DNA fragments, massively decreased costs of a full genome sequence to $1,500 in 2016.

Comparing the cost decreases of genome sequencing to Moore’s Law illustrates just how rapid technological advancements in the biomedical field have been. Moore’s Law suggested that the cost for a unit of computing power would halve every year. While computing has fallen well behind that prediction, only halving every two years, genome sequencing has exceeded that benchmark, halving in price in nearly every nine months from 2006 to 2016.