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Genomics Pioneer Craig Venter Wants To Offer Low Cost Exome Sequencing

24 September 2015, 6:26 am EDT By Rina Marie Doctor Tech Times
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Whole exome sequencing, which is valuable in detecting disease-causing mutations in humans, is now being offered by Craig Venter to clients for a low cost. Through the collaboration of Venter's company with a South-African insurance firm, clients may now avail of this typically high-cost service at a much cheaper price.
  ( Steve Jurvetson | Flickr )

Craig Venter, the man behind the pioneer genome company Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), wants to offer exome sequencing services at a low cost. Clients of insurance company Discovery Ltd., based in South Africa, will be provided with cheaper whole exome sequencing, which is the determination of the DNA pattern of all protein-generating genes in humans.

Through the said partnership, HLI will carry out the examinations for $250 each through a special incentive plan by Discovery Ltd, which has clients both in the U.K. and in South Africa.

About 15 years ago, Venter raced the U.S. government to decode the human genome for $100,000. According to him, the $250 price now signifies an emergent dip in the cost of gene sequencing. He believes that the objective is to make sequencing available to wider populations.

Five years ago, the cost of whole genome sequencing, which includes mapping out about 20,500 genes, is approximately $20,000. In 2014, the average rate plummeted to $1,500.

Whole exome sequencing analyzes the exons, which manufacture proteins inside the DNA. Although this particular part of the genome only comprises two percent of its entire structure, it is accountable for 85 percent of mutations that eventually lead to diseases, including cancers.

The deal between the two companies, which will run for multiple years, will make low-cost whole genome sequencing available to the subscribers of Discovery Ltd. Part of the agreement is the provision of both cancer and whole genome sequencing services. The financial aspects and particulars of the said deal were not made available.

According to Dr. Jonathan Broomberg, MD, the CEO of Discovery Ltd., Discovery is looking forward to its collaboration with HLI in providing affordable sequencing interventions to its large number of clients both in the U.K. and in South Africa. The company thinks that this is a primary approach in international health insurance and with this, Discovery will be able to serve its clients with high-technology services and most current information regarding their diseases that are genetically-influenced including risks, treatment approaches and overall health and wellness schemes.

Broomberg adds that this program will also contribute to global research efforts as the genomic data to be collated during the sequencing will be utilized by various scientists all around the globe. Discovery is excited to know that together with its subscribers, they can help improve human health researches.

Photo: Steve Jurvetson | Flickr

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