Ultra Pricey DNA Code Mapping

Ever find yourself gift-hunting for a truly self-obsessed friend? If you’ve got a lot of money, then consider buying thim or her a reading of their entire DNA code–for a staggering $350,000!

A biotech firm in Cambridge, Mass. called Knome (pronounced “gnome”) is offering the service to hypochondriacs and their sympathizers. You could find out that you’re going to keel over from cancer before you get any symptoms.

Until now …. only J. Craig Venter, the brash gene-mapper, and James Watson, who discovered DNA’s structure, have gotten to look straight at their entire DNA code. A bunch of other companies recently surfaced that give consumers a glimpse of their genes for prices ranging from $985 to $2,500. Among them are Google, who funded 23andMe, Iceland’s Decode Genetics and Navigenics of Redwood Shores, Calif.

But the low-budget products sample only 1 million common gene variations. Knome is promising to look at all 3 billion letter pairs in a person’s genome, in a few months’ time. Cofounder George Church, a Harvard professor who is separately running a DNA sequencing effort, says he started the company after people had approached him saying they would pay great sums to learn their entire DNA. He joined with entrepreneurs Jorge Conde and Sundar Subramaniam.

No buyers yet, and you might think carefully before spending that $350,000. Scientists don’t understand fully how genes interact to produce a particular disease. On the other hand, you will be in an exclusive club: Knome will take only 20 people. Church suggests they might even have an edge when it comes to biotech investing.


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