In 2000, President Bill Clinton signaled the completion of the Human Genome Project at a cost in excess of $2 billion. A decade later, the price for any of us to order our own personal genome sequence—a comprehensive map of the 3 billion letters in our DNA—is rapidly and inevitably dropping to just $1,000. Dozens of men and women—scientists, entrepreneurs, celebrities, and patients—have already been sequenced, pioneers in a bold new era of personalized genomic medicine. The $1,000 genome has long been considered the tipping point that would open the floodgates to this revolution.
Do you have gene variants associated with Alzheimer’s or diabetes, heart disease or cancer? Which drugs should you consider taking for various diseases, and at what dosage? In the years to come, doctors will likely be able to tackle all of these questions—and many more—by using a computer in their offices to call up your unique genome sequence, which will become as much a part of your medical record as your blood pressure. Indeed, many experts are advocating that all newborns have a complete genome analysis done so that preventive measures and preemptive medicine can begin early in life.
How has this astonishing achievement been accomplished? And what will it mean for our lives? To research the story of this unfolding revolution, critically acclaimed science writer Kevin Davies has spent the past few years traveling to the leading centers and interviewing the entrepreneurs and pioneers in the race to achieve the $1,000 genome. He vividly brings to life the extraordinary drama of this grand scientific achievement, revealing the masterful ingenuity that has transformed the process of decoding DNA and delivering the information it possesses to the public at large.
Davies also profiles the future of genomic medicine and thoughtfully explores the many pressing issues raised by the tidal wave of personal genetic information. Will your privacy be protected? Will you be pressured, by insurance companies or by your employer, to get your genome sequenced? What psychological toll might there be to discovering you are at risk for certain diseases like Alzheimer’s? And will the government or the medical establishment come between you and your genome?
One thing that is not in question is that we are moving swiftly into the personalized medicine era, and The $1,000 Genome is an essential guide to this brave new future.
Kevin Davies, Ph.D., is the author of The $1,000 Genome. His previous book Cracking the Genome was translated into 15 languages. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of Bio•IT World, a trade magazine covering the role of technology in the life sciences. He was the founding editor of Nature Genetics, the world's leading genetics journal, which he headed for its first five years. He has also written for the Times (London), Boston Globe, New England Journal of Medicine, and New Scientist, among others. His first book, Breakthrough (co-authored with Michael White) told the story of the race for the BRCA1 breast cancer gene. Davies holds an M.A. in biochemistry from the University of Oxford and a Ph.D in molecular genetics from the University of London. He held postdoctoral fellowships at MIT and Harvard Medical School before moving into science publishing as an editor with Nature magazine. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.
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