A high-tech, personality-driven account of advances in the field of personal genomics since the first draft of the human genome was announced a decade ago.
Bio-IT World editor in chief Davies (Cracking the Genome, 2001) predicts that sequencing the human genome, which initially cost billions of dollars, is approaching $1,000 and will drop to $100 or less in the near future. In addition, routine, affordable genome sequencing will transform health care. He relates the stories of numerous startup companies in the field of personal genomics, the attempts of entrepreneurs to develop technologies to sequence the human genome rapidly and economically and the services that they offer to individual consumers. The author is writing for a savvy readership. For general readers, who are likely to struggle with unfamiliar acronyms and technical terms, he attempts to lighten the jargon by peppering his account with irrelevant details about the personalities involved. A number of individual chapters read like magazine profiles, and his own experiences with getting his genome sequenced and with genetic counseling are revealing of the provisional nature of the information provided. Of more general interest are concerns raised about the information that personal-genomics companies provide to individual consumers. Is the information accurate? Does it have clinical value, i.e., can it predict a disorder? Does it have clinical utility, i.e., can it be used to prevent or treat a condition? Can the privacy of the information be protected? Davies skims over the ethical issues, as well as questions about how individuals may choose to apply genetic information in their lives and how doctors will incorporate genetic information about patients into their practices. The author is convincing about the declining price of genome sequencing, but just how this will affect medical care remains an open question.
Techies may enjoy, but general readers concerned about the broader issues raised by personal genomics are advised to wait for a different discussion.