Gene Map Becomes a Luxury Item

On a cold day in January, Dan Stoicescu, a millionaire living in Switzerland, became the second person in the world to buy the full sequence of his own genetic code.

He is also among a relatively small group of individuals who could afford the $350,000 price tag.

Mr. Stoicescu is the first customer of Knome, a Cambridge-based company that has promised to parse his genetic blueprint by spring. A Chinese executive has signed on for the same service with Knome’s partner, the Beijing Genomics Institute, the company said.

Scientists have so far unraveled only a handful of complete human genomes, all financed by governments, foundations and corporations in the name of medical research. But as the cost of genome sequencing goes from stratospheric to merely very expensive, it is piquing the interest of a new clientele.

“I’d rather spend my money on my genome than a Bentley or an airplane,” said Mr. Stoicescu, 56, a biotechnology entrepreneur who retired two years ago after selling his company. He says he will check discoveries about genetic disease risk against his genome sequence daily, “like a stock portfolio.”

But while money may buy a full readout of the six billion chemical units in an individual’s genome, biologists say the superrich will have to wait like everyone else to learn how the small variations in their sequence influence appearance, behavior, abilities, disease susceptibility and other traits.

Via NY Times

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