Nobody a year ago could have realistically imagined sequencing 1,000 genomes of old, healthy people just to see what might be their secret to long and healthy life. But Mountain View, CA-based Complete Genomics and the Scripps Health system in San Diego are looking to take advantage of the advances in super-fast, super-cheap sequencing to run exactly that kind of audacious experiment.
Complete Genomics (NASDAQ: GNOM) said today that it has agreed to generate the whole genome sequences, on the company’s dime, for this experiment at Scripps. The trial, known as the “Wellderly Study,” will include 1,000 people who are “well” without any major diseases or long-term health complications, and “elderly,” from the ages of 80 through 108. The prominent cardiologist Eric Topol, the chief academic officer at Scripps, has spent the last four years recruiting these healthy senior citizens to study what it is in their genetics and their environment that has enabled them to live such long, healthy lives.
Whole genome sequencing for a study this big would have been cost-prohibitive a couple years ago when each genome cost $20,000 to sequence at Complete Genomics. It’s now possible because whole genomes can be produced now for $5,000 apiece in small batches, and $4,000 apiece for bulk orders, the company said.
“There have been a significant number of longevity studies, but the Wellderly Study is the first one focused specifically on healthy aging,” Topol said in a company statement. “We anticipate that by employing Complete Genomics’ sequencing service, and being able to study participants’ entire genome for the first time, we will gain valuable insights into the genetic variants that have helped protect the health of our Wellderly population.”
Investors weren’t so enthused by the news, which isn’t surprising since the sequencing will be done at the company’s cost. Complete Genomics dropped 7 percent in mid-day trading today to $5.44, near its 52-week low. The company, like others in the industry, has been hit by negative sentiment over looming cuts in the federal research budget, which are making it increasingly difficult for researchers to sequence all the genomes they might want to do.
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