As you may know, all of you have a genome. It is made of DNA, which is an instruction set for most of your parts. Sometimes the parts break and tragic disease is the result. Other times, things change and nothing at all seems to happen! What a big mysterious machine the genome is!
Anyway, recent technological advances in sequencing technology have brought the price of an individual genome sequence down to $50,000–not cheap, but nowhere near the 2.7 billion the original Human Genome Project cost. Other biotech companies believe they can deliver a $5,000 genome within the timeframe of a year or so (editor’s note: they’re already late). There’s a genome X-prize also.
What this means is, assuming the price drops to >$5K/person, for roughly the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we could have instead sequenced the genomes of all 300 million Americans. This would be an unprecedented data set. If we kept it going for years, we’d learn a hell of a lot about human genetics.
This is assuming the price doesn’t fall even further within the next few years, which I believe will inevitably happen.
My question is–
Would you support a national initiative to collect the genomes of the entire American populace? Assumptions: (1) an individual would not be associable with their genome (2) participation is voluntary (3) you retain a copy of your genomic information (the government does as well, but it cannot link it to you in any way)
Obviously security is part of the issue here. Can we maintain sufficient security to ensure that your genome remains private? Cost is also part of the issue. Using near-future technologies, this will still cost about a trillion dollars. We can maybe ameliorate that by having people buy in or by renting the database to biotech corporations, but it is still going to cost a lot. Is it worth it?