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The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine Hardcover – September 7, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416569596
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416569596
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #809,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Once only a subject for science fiction movies, whole genome sequencing is rapidly becoming a reality for the masses. So, what does this mean for you?... Davies does a commendable job of answering that question.
--The Spittoon (

Kevin Davies' The $1,000 Genome deserves to be widely read... It presents a careful and I think entertaining view of the past and possible future of personal genomics. --Keith Robison -- "Omics! Omics" (

In this informative and accessible work of scientific journalism, Englishman Kevin Davies predicts that personalized genome sequencing will soon become so affordable that it will revolutionize medicine. --Winnipeg Free Press

``The great impact of a new technology – from cotton underwear to the jet to the computer – comes not when it is invented, but when it becomes cheap enough to be within the reach of everybody. Gene sequencing has now reached that point. With unrivalled knowledge of the people who made this possible, Kevin Davies eloquently explains how it came about, and hints at what will come next.’’ (Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist)

From the Author

Although I've been writing about "the $1,000 genome" since 2002, it was two key events in 2007 that really sparked the concept for this book. The first was the presentation to Jim Watson in May of his digital genome sequence on a portable hard drive -- the first "personal genome" decoded using a new kind of DNA sequencing technology. Although the cost of Watson's genome was about $1 million, that was still a fraction of the $2.3 billion spent on the Human Genome Project.

The second was my first conversation with the co-founder of 23andMe, a pioneering consumer genomics company offering tantalizing personal genomic information at an affordable price (less than $1,000) to the public at large. Since then, tens of thousands of people have sent saliva samples to various consumer genomics firms. In a handful of cases, some recounted in the book, the results are nothing short of life-changing, and possibly life-saving.

Since 2007, the cost of genome sequencing has plummeted at an astonishing rate. Today, anyone can get their genome sequenced for less than $20,000, and that price will inevitably drop to $1,000 in the coming years as new technologies arrive. Imagine getting a full genome scan as easily and routinely as an MRI -- and without the claustrophobia! Even better, imagine a Star Trek Tricorder device reading your complete genetic code in a matter of minutes! That's a very real possibility in the next few years.

The bigger question, however, is whether that is going to make a difference to the health of yourself and your family? Having access to your full genome isn't magically going to reveal whether you're going to develop diabetes, cancer or heart disease, but it is going to become a fundamental part of your medical record. Among the challenges ahead of us discussed in the book: Will our genome data be kept private? Will we be subject to insurance or employment discrimination if we have our DNA sequenced? What can my genome really tell me about my disease risk? Who is going to explain that analysis to me -- not to mention my family doctor?

My intention in The $1,000 Genome isn't necessarily to answer all those questions, but to raise awareness of the rapidly approaching era of genome sequencing and increasingly personalized medicine. The technology will be with us very soon: the medical, legal and health care professions need to start preparing now. As should you!


More About the Author

Born and raised in London, Kevin Davies studied at Oxford University and moved to the U.S. in 1987 after earning his PhD in genetics. He endured two years at the bench before seeking refuge in the editorial office of Nature magazine. He was the founding editor of the journal Nature Genetics and has also worked at Cell Press and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is currently the editor of Bio-IT World magazine, based in Boston.

"The $1,000 Genome" is Kevin's third book, and second for the Free Press. He published "Cracking the Genome," about the race for the Human Genome Project, in 2000. His first book, "Breakthrough," co-authored with Michael White, was about the race to identify the "breast cancer gene" in the mid-90s.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on February 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The dramatic ascension of genetics and our overall understanding of biology throughout the twentieth century had culminated with a dramatic and news-grabbing race to decode the entire human genome. This was a monumental achievement; especially since just a decade or two earlier even the most optimistic experts did not expect something like this to be accomplished for another hundred years or so. However, the remarkable improvements in the sequencing technologies and the computing tools, as well as the sudden realization by the entrepreneurs that genetics could be the new technological goldmine, all contributed to the rapid actualization of the dream that had been set in motion with the discovery of the DNA. The beginning of the twenty-first century was a time of great excitement and hope for the future of genomics and the ways it could impact medicine and lead to major improvements in our quality of life.

It has been more than a decade since those heady days of human genomics, and this seems like a good point in time to take a look and reflect on what has been accomplished since. However, it doesn't take a Ph.D. in biotechnology to conclude that in terms of therapeutic treatments, or even better understanding of many diseases, the actual impact of the decoding of the human genome has been minimal at best. It is quite possible that the main culprit for this state of affairs is the still prohibitive cost of mapping a single genome. This is an implicit premise of "The $1,000 Genome", and this book aims to explore many attempts to bring this cost down to the point where it becomes feasible to have your own genome decoded as a standard part of your medical screening.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gross on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Back in 2000, when the draft sequence of "the" human genome was announced, hopes were high that a genetic understanding of common diseases would soon follow. This anticipated revolution in genomic medicine hasn't happened yet. However, a very different kind of revolution has happened, namely the development of fundamentally new and much more efficient methods to sequence huge amounts of DNA. As a consequence, the cost of sequencing a human genome has fallen faster than that of computer hardware. In order-of-magnitude terms, the first human genome (2000) cost around $ 1 billion, James Watson's (2007) $ 1 million, and this year many individual human genomes will be sequenced for not much more than $1000 per head.

This very real genome revolution has been underreported in the general media. Worse, it hasn't yet influenced the thinking of many medical professionals, even though it is bound to change the ways in which they will be able to prevent and treat disease. Kevin Davies, who has followed these developments closely as the editor of the magazine BioIT World and has interviewed many of the main protagonists over the years, now aims to popularise the new genome revolution in this very readable book.

Along with the progress in sequencing technology and personal genomes, Davies also covers the work of direct-to-consumer companies such as 23 and me, and also reports his own experience gained with these services. It emerges, however, that these companies are already at risk of becoming obsolete if they keep looking for simple answers from single base mutations (single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs) although the large-scale view of the complexity of entire genomes is becoming more and more important.

This is a well-informed and very accessible account of the fast-moving developments that will change medical and pharmaceutical world very soon. Naturally, it will become dated very soon, so read it now.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on October 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm a biology illiterate excited by the prospects of genetic research and future genetic engineering. I was hoping that Davies' book would educate me in the basics, especially since his day job involves editing a periodical on the topic and he has a PhD in the subject. Unfortunately, Davies' book didn't do it. "The $1,000 Genome" focuses more on the key companies and leaders in the field, than explaining what's happening to neophytes. (Articles such as "The $100 Genome" in the 4/17/2008 "Technology Review" are more helpful.) As a result, the material jumps from one approach to another, and lacks a simple, structured approach. I also didn't appreciate Davies' wild numbers in some instances - eg. the U.S. spending $5 trillion on 4 million with Alzheimers.

Davies should also have devoted much more space to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute), which with its 126 new top-of-the-range sequencing machines added to an existing 31 will have supposedly more DNA-sequencing capacity than the entire U.S. Also important is what it is likely to accomplish, at least in the area of human intelligence, an area that it is focusing on. (2,000 Chinese children will have their genes sampled, and the results correlated with their test scores at school - the largest examination to date of the idea that differences between individuals' IQ scores are partly due to DNA differences.)

Nonetheless, it is impossible not to be impressed by the speed of improvement in the field - from taking 13 years and $2.7 billion to decade the first human genome , to 14 days and $1,500 by 2009. That's improvement by a factor of 10/year, far faster than even Moore's Law (doubling the number of transistors on a chip every 12-18 months).
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