Two healthcare goals are personalised and more effective interventions. Advances in human genome sequencing offer considerable scope to achieve both. Affordability is a big challenge for Africa’s health systems. Over the early year of this century, unit costs’ve tumbled.
Cost per raw megabase DNA sequence is the cost of determining one megabase, so a million bases, of DNA sequence of a specified quality has dropped from US$10,000 in 2001 to less than US$0.1 in 2015. NHGRI’s graph shows the precipitous drop from trend around 2008.
Cost per genome follows a similar trajectory. Sequencing a human-sized genome cost US$100m in 2001. In 2015, it cost about US$1,000.
NHGRI compares the unit costs with a Moore’s Law curve. Moore's Law says a long-term computer hardware trend’s doubling compute power every two years. Matching it’s a sign of good performance. Exceeding it shows very good performance. Exceeding it on the scale of the NHGRI’s unit costs’s astonishing.
The unit costs are for production activities that provide large volumes of quality DNA sequence data for public databases. They excluded costs of NHGRI’s Large-Scale Genome Sequencing Program, classified as a non-production activity.
Even with the cost drop, which could continue, affordability’s always demanding for Africa’s health systems. Put alongside Africa’s health and healthcare challenges, theres a case for planning sustained investment in the skills and eHealth capacity for using genome data. It’ll have to take its place alongside other initiatives such as mHealth, predictive analytics and Big Data, but its opportunities are growing.