Gattaca, Here We Come

We're getting one step closer to the world of Gattaca. In the 1997 movie, everyone goes around getting their DNA sequenced in order to determine their worth.

DNA sequencing expert Complete Genomics (Nasdaq: GNOM) has begun performing whole genome sequencing on DNA samples derived from human saliva processed with OraSure Technologies' (Nasdaq: OSUR) collection kits.

Complete Genomics didn't mention the turnaround time for a complete genome sequence of a saliva sample -- it takes a little longer than a blood sample because the saliva sample contains bacterial DNA -- but it's certainly slower than the instant results seen in Gattaca.

Nor will the saliva tests be used by the general public just yet. The cost of whole genome sequencing is still too high, although it's decreasing in a dramatic fashion.

As the cost comes down, the first place we'll see ramp-up is in the use of genetic sequencing for clinical trials. If every patient in a clinical trial has their DNA sequenced, it might be possible to find genetic traits that increase the likelihood of a drug helping patients.

If it's done in a phase 2 trial, the knowledge could limit the risk of failure in a phase 3 trial by only enrolling patients that will respond. Costs could be reduced as well if it allows the trials to be considerably smaller. Asking for a saliva sample rather than a blood sample might make the process easier to complete.

The increased use will help Complete Genomics and OraSure, as well as Illumina (Nasdaq: ILMN) Life Technologies (Nasdaq: LIFE) and Pacific Biosciences of California (Nasdaq: PACB) , which make the machines that do the sequencing.

I have no doubt that the frequency of genetic testing will increase dramatically over the next decade until one day we eventually start approaching levels seen in Gattaca. Just keep in mind that with a lot of players involved and a race to make sequencing cheap, margins will likely be tightened. And let's hope we don't see the genetic profiling witnessed in the movie.

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