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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Gene pioneer's next goal
Dr Craig Venter
Dr Venter proposes genomes on a disc for paying customers
Dr Craig Venter, who in 2001 produced a "first assembly", or rough draft, of the human genetic code, has been speaking about one of his next goals: to produce personalised genomes on a disc.


As we push the technology and the number of people involved, we will drive [the price] down

Dr Craig Venter
Dr Venter, who recently stepped down from his company Celera Genomics, will soon offer the service to anyone that can afford it.

Speaking to BBC World Service's Science In Action programme, the scientist explained how the work is "a logical progression" and will change the way healthcare is managed in the future.

"Within 10 years, before a baby leaves the hospital, their parents will have the essence of their genetic code on a CD," he said.

Dr Venter plans to provide personal genomes on a disc in about a week for $712,000 (400,000) from later this year.

Preventive medicine

The step change that has taken place to allow superfast sequencing has come about through robotics and high-powered computing.

But he is convinced the technology will continue to improve to speed up still further the process of reading an individual's DNA - and that the cost of doing so will also fall dramatically.

He is convinced the service will "give people more control over their own lives".

"If you know that you have a 30% increase risk of colon cancer from your genetic code then you can get checked much more frequently during your life," he explained.

"Colon cancer, if it is caught early, is 95% curable. If it is caught late it goes down to 45%. So that gives people power and control over their own destiny."

Reduced costs

It is not just colonic cancer that could be detected. As our understanding of the human genome improves, Dr Venter believes a wide range of hereditary diseases could in theory be pinpointed early.

Such information, he argued could be a boon for all health-care organisations.

Spending a small sum at birth to identify high risk individuals he claimed could eliminate costly and time-consuming treatment later.

"Now we think that we can get the essence of the information or the sequence of the genes for one person in less than a week, for less than half a million dollars," he claimed.

"As we push the technology and the number of people involved, we will drive that down."

Meanwhile, a British company says it is close to perfecting a gene sequencing method that could read someone's genome in a day.

Solexa's ultimate goal is to provide the information inside 24 hours for $1,000 (562).

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Dr Craig Venter speaks to Science in Action
"Parents will have the essence of their baby's genetic code on a CD"

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23 Sep 02 | Science/Nature
30 May 02 | Science/Nature
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