Veritas Genetics announced whole genome with 23andMe-like health reports for $999


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Veritas Genetics, a company co-founded by renowned Harvard geneticist George Church, will soon offer whole genome sequencing for $999. Here is the official announcement.

A few noteworthy quotes:

“Now that the whole genome is this accessible, it will replace all genetic tests ... because it is all genetic tests, and much, much more,” points out Dr. Church.

“The whole genome is the new standard. At this price point, there is no reason to use anything but the whole genome, especially for any tests that are close to or more than the price of our whole genome,” adds Mirza Cifric, CEO and co-founder. “The whole genome is the foundation of precision medicine and a lifetime resource to maximize quality of life and longevity.”

To avoid the legal problems encountered by 23andMe, they will require that the test is ordered by one's physician. This leads to the odd situation in which a genetics with experience in genomics cannot order the test directly if he isn't a licensed physician (and researchers aren't), even though the vast majority of GP's have no idea how to deal with genetic data.

At the moment pre-orders are only available for the USA.

Many other companies already propose whole genome sequencing for $1000 or less, although typically without the user-friendly 23andMe-style reports (customers have to rely on third-party analysis tools like Promethease or LiveWello).

The price you will pay for a full genome depends on the coverage - i.e. the number of sequencing reads. Longer reads carry more information, making it easier to construct a correct sequence (read more). For example the 1000 Genomes Project data was generated at 4-5x coverage, while the Human Genome Project used 12x coverage or higher.

If you order a test at FullGenomes Corp the price will vary a lot depending on the coverage chosen, ranging from as cheap as $280 for a 2x coverage to $750 for a 10x coverage, and if you really want to be sure that your sequencing is error-proof, $5,500 for a 100x coverage. The 4x coverage used by the 1000 genome project costs only $395.

According to this page, Veritas's myGenome test will use 30X average coverage using an Illumina HiSeq X system. That is cheaper than FullGenomes's 30x coverage test ($1,650).

The great thing about Veritas is that they follow in 23andMe's footstep to provide detailed, customer-friendly health and trait reports.

Initially their health report will include:

- Drug metabolism

- 32 genetic conditions that are caused by those monogenic mutations (equivalent to 23andMe's carrier status, although 23andMe reports over 50 such conditions).

- 20 types of cancer

- 10 cardiovascular diseases

- 9 immune disorders (RA, Lupus, Psoriasis, Flu, etc.)

- 9 endocrinological and metabolic syndromes (Diabetes, obesity, etc.)

- 18 neurological disorders (Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Dementia, Autism, etc.)

- 31 organ diseases (Cystic lung, Glaucoma, Haemophilia, etc.)

- Various genes associated with mental disorders, mitochondrial disorders, and reproductive health.

They will also provide a traits report with genetic predispositions for:

- Athleticism (endurance, muscle performance, VO2 max response, etc.)

- Nutrition (Daily Caloric Intake Levels, Adiponectin Levels, Cholesterol levels, etc.)

- Longevity/aging

- Other non-clinical traits (Pigmentation, Freckling, BMI, Height, Hair curl, Earwax Type, etc.)

But more importantly for population geneticists and history buffs on Eupedia, theywill also provide a report on Ancestry.

So they are really trying to compete with 23andMe by offering almost exactly the same types of reports. Overall the number of conditions reported is very similar to that of 23andMe's pre-FDA report (for customers who ordered before 2013), but more genes are taken into account, especially for cardiovascular diseases, cancers and metabolic disorders. You could see Veritas as a beefed up 23andMe test. I had been waiting for 23andMe to announce an upgrade to their previously announced whole exome test (which never materialised), then for a whole genome test. If they want to survive they won't have much choice but to quickly follow suit, maybe with a slightly cheaper offer ($750 ?) to remain competitive with that new Harvard start-up.
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