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Sequence the Human Genome

Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

 

 

Geneticist Craig Venter helped sequence the human genome. Now he wants yours.

By CARL ZIMMER   NOVEMBER 5, 2015   http://www.statnews.com/2015/11/05/geneticist-craig-venter-helped-sequence-the-human-genome-now-he-wants-yours/

If you enter Health Nucleus, a new facility in San Diego cofounded by J. Craig Venter, one of the world’s best-known living scientists, you will get a telling glimpse into the state of medical science in 2015.

Your entire genome will be sequenced with extraordinary resolution and accuracy. Your body will be scanned in fine, three-dimensional detail. Thousands of compounds in your blood will be measured. Even the microbes that live inside you will be surveyed. You will get a custom-made iPad app to navigate data about yourself. Also, your wallet will be at least $25,000 lighter.

Venter, who came to the world’s attention in the 1990s when he led a campaign to produce the first draft of a human genome, launched Health Nucleus last month as part of his new company, Human Longevity. He has made clear that his aim is just as lofty as it was when he and his team sequenced the human genome or built a flu vaccine from a genetic sequence delivered to them over the Internet.

“We’re trying to show the value of actual scientific data that can change people’s lives,” Venter told STAT in some of his most extensive remarks yet about the project. “Our goal is to interpret everything in the genome that we can.”

Still, the initiative is drawing deep suspicion among some doctors who question whether Venter’s existing tests can tell patients anything meaningful at all. In interviews, they said they see Health Nucleus as the latest venture that could lead consumers to believe that more testing means improved health. That notion, they say, could drive customers to get procedures they don’t need, which might even be harmful.

“I think there is absolutely no evidence that any of those tests have any benefit for healthy people,” Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist at the University of California at San Diego and the editor-in-chief of JAMA Internal Medicine, said when asked about Venter’s new project.

Venter has a black belt in media savvy — he can make the details of molecular biology alluring for viewers of 60 Minutes and TED talks alike — but off screen he has earned a reputation even from his critics for serious scientific achievements. His non-profit J. Craig Venter Institute, which he founded in 1992, now has a staff of 300. Scientists at the institute have explored everything from the ocean’s biodiversity to the Ebola virus.

Last year, at age 67, Venter cofounded Human Longevity, a company based in San Diego with branches in Mountain View, Calif., and Singapore that is building the largest human genome-sequencing operation on Earth, equipped with massive computing resources to analyze the data being generated. The firm’s database now contains highly accurate genome sequences from 20,000 people; another 3,000 genomes are being added each month.

Franz Och, the former head of Google Translate and an expert on machine learning, is leading a team that’s teaching computers to recognize patterns in the company’s databases that scientists themselves may not be able to see. To demonstrate the power of this approach, Human Longevity researchers are using machine learning to discover how genetic variations shape the human face.

“We can determine a good resemblance of your photograph straight from your genetic code,” said Venter.

Venter and his colleagues will be publishing the results of that study soon — most likely generating another round of headlines. But headlines don’t pay the bills, and at a company that’s got $70 million in funding from private investors, bills matter. The company is now exploring a number of avenues for generating income from its database. It has partnered with Discovery, an insurance company in England and South Africa, to read the DNA of their clients. For $250 apiece, it will sequence the protein-coding regions of the genome, known as exomes, and offer an interpretation of the data.

Health Nucleus could become yet another source of income for Human Longevity. The San Diego facility can handle eight to 12 people a day. There are plans to open more sites both in the United States and abroad. “You can do the math,” Venter said.

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Business Intelligence Application for Pharmaceutical and Biotech Professionals

Submitted by

Dr Stephen Breslin

Chief Executive | Glasgow Science Centre

50 Pacific Quay | Glasgow | G51 1EA

Download the FREE Software Application 

The Sophie Pharma & Biotech App is a powerful personal business and technology intelligence tool to increase your productivity.  Sophie will work on your Ipad, Iphone, Android tablet or smartphone.

You can download it directly from the Apple and Google store. For more information visit http://www.sophieknowledge.com <http://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=www%2Esophieknowledge%2Ecom&amp;urlhash=kBVe&amp;_t=mbox_mebc>

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