Sequencing and the new generation

Cleaner, faster, cheaper are the three words that succinctly describe why next-generation sequencing (NGS) promises such huge potential. The quest to sequence the first human genome involved an international consortium of 200 scientists and cost just under $3 billion.  And, it took over ten years to complete.

Whole genome sequencing can now be done using NGS for under $ 1,000 and in a few days. This drastic drop in cost even defies Moore’s Law. The law describes a long-term trend in the computer hardware industry that involves the doubling of 'computer processing power' every two years. Hypothetically, technology improvements that keep pace with Moore's Law are universally regarded to be doing exceedingly well.

The progress of Personalised healthcare hinges on NGS having made discovery more affordable, more rapid and more efficient. Sequencing a person’s genome is less expensive, therefore, the amount of genetic data associated with humans will increase exponentially. Access to large numbers of genomes empowers researchers to explore relationships between genetic patterns, diseases, treatments and responses to treatment enabling improvements to healthcare.

For example, the technological leap of NGS enabled AstraZeneca’s collaboration with the Montreal Heart Institute. Less than five years ago, sifting through genes from 80,000 patient samples would have been prohibitively slow and expensive. In complex diseases the genetic influence will be much more subtle compared to cancer. To advance personalised healthcare in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, large patient numbers matched to clinical outcomes will enable researchers to better detect any genetic variations that may distinguish subsets of patients. These variations will also help to reveal new insights into the pathophysiology of specific diseases, such as hypertension and coronary artery disease.