Veritas Genetics, a Boston-based biotech company co-founded by Harvard geneticist George Church, is claiming it can now sequence your entire genome
— the genetic blueprint inside all your cells that makes you who and what you are — for less than $1,000. That price tag includes an interpretation of the results and genetic counseling.
If the claim is true, it would shatter a long-held barrier in genetic medicine.
Reaching the $1,000 genome
The so-called $1,000 genome has long been a holy grail in genetics. While others — notably the company Illumina — have previously claimed to reach this milestone, these efforts did not include the cost of interpreting the results.
Veritas says it was the first to deliver the complete $1,000 genome in 2015, when it sequenced the genomes of nearly 5,000 participants in the Personal Genome Project (PGP) at Harvard Medical School.
“Now that the whole genome is this accessible, it will replace all genetic tests … because it is all genetic tests, and much, much more,” Church said in a statement.
Veritas hopes that its test, called myGenome, will make it easier for customers to access their genetic information together with their doctors to make better health decisions.
According to Veritas, the test includes a digital report and app where you can view your results, video-based genetic counseling, and lifestyle-relevant information (related to fitness or nutrition, for example). It also includes access to expert opinions from physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic, and others.
Veritas is not a direct-to-consumer test. It requires you to order it through your doctor. However, you can place a pre-order now through the Veritas website, pending your doctor’s approval.
A new era in genomic medicine
Most existing genetic tests only cover a portion of your genome. For example, personal genomics company 23andMe offers a genetic test for $199 based on single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs — specific genetic mutations that are associated with particular traits and diseases. (In 2013, the FDA ordered 23andMe to stop selling its tests with health results because it hadn’t gotten approval to provide health information to customers. As of October 2015, the company began providing limited health information to its customers again.)
But these kinds of tests may miss more than 90% of genetic variations linked to health and disease, because they only look at the part of the genome that’re involved in encoding proteins, according to Veritas. The remaining parts of the genome were once considered “junk DNA,” but evidence now suggests these parts have an important role to play.
Earlier this month, the company Sure Genomics announced it was offering a whole-genome test for $2,500. Unlike Veritas, Sure Genomics sells its test directly to consumers, because the company has its own physicians who gather information about your family history and order tests relevant to your specific health questions.
Now, if the $1,000 genome really is here, as Veritas claims, it could transform the genetic testing industry.
As Veritas CEO and co-founder Mirza Cifric said in a statement, “At this price point, there is no reason to use anything but the whole genome, especially for any tests that are close to or more than the price of our whole genome.”
The company’s website says it will begin shipping the tests on March 30.
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