The fact that critical information lurks within the three billion or so pairs of letters representing our genetic instructions was a key driver of the Human Genome Project, begun in 1990 and completed, with suitable fanfare, 13 years later. But translating DNA sequence into actionable insight hasn’t been easy. This is a major theme of “The Genome Odyssey,” Euan Ashley’s impassioned, firsthand account of the effort to bring genomic data into clinical practice and help patients like Carson and Chase.
For starters, says Dr. Ashley, a cardiologist and geneticist at Stanford, there was the price — prohibitively high early on. Thanks to advances in technology, the cost of sequencing an individual’s DNA has declined a million-fold since 2003 — the equivalent, he says, of a Ferrari plummeting from $350,000 to less than 40 cents. The time required to decode a genome has plunged to days rather than years or months. When Jazlene, a newborn girl with a dangerously abnormal heart rhythm, arrived at Stanford in 2014, Dr. Ashley and his colleagues were able to identify the genetic cause within days and “practice more ‘precise’ medicine” by fine-tuning the infant’s therapy.
Author(s): David A. Shaywitz
Publication Date: 24 February 2021
Publication Site: Wall Street Journal