George Church: Optimistic about Personal Genomics in 2007

What are you optimistic about? This is the theme of the tenth Edge.org Annual Question, edited by John Brockman. George Church is optimistic about personal genomics. First, he is optmistic about the economics of personal genomics:

We are in free-fall from a stratospheric $3 billion generic genome sequence (which only an expert could love) down to a sea level price for our personal genomic data. Early-adopters are posing and positing how to exploit it, while surrounded by envious and oblivious bystanders. We can now pinpoint the 1% of our genomes which in concert with our environment influences the traits that make us different from one another. Ways to tease out that key 1%, coalesce with “next-generation” DNA reading technology popping up this year, to suddenly bring the street-price down to $3000—about as easy (or hard) to justify as buying some bleeding-edge electronic gadget at an early stage when only minimal software is ready.

While noting that not everyone is ready (or even aware) of this technological leap in-progress, he is optimistic that people are starting to catch-up.

Momentum is thus building for millions of people to volunteer to have their genome data correlated with their physical-traits to benefit the billions who will hang back (due to inertia or uncertainty).

He is optmistic that health information altruism will come to pass in personal genomics:

I am optimistic that millions more will share [their genomic data]. Millions already do share to benefit society (or whatever) in old and new social
phenomena ranging from the Red Cross to Wikipedia, from MySpace/YouTube to SEC compensation disclosures…

And finally:

I am optimistic that we will not be de-humanized (continuing the legacy of feudalism and industrial revolution), but we might be re-humanized, relieved of a few more ailments, to contemplate our place in the universe, and transcend out brutal past.

Read the whole thing.

Several other contributors are optimistic about genes:

Freeman Dyson: "HAR1 ( Human Accelerated Region 1) As a New Tool Leading Us Toward a Deep Understanding of Human Nature"

JILL NEIMARK, The Human Epigenome Project

Samuel Barondes, Finding Mental Illness Genes

Edge.org 2007 Annual Question

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