UC Berkeley Life Science Research Gets Funding for Genome Software
In two or three years you should be able to get your personal genome sequenced for $1,000. Who will win the race to offer the service at this price remains to be seen, but the more important question might be: How will this information be valuable? What will personalized medicine mean for you? For science? Ideally the DNA profile would help your doctor analyze your risk for disease and tell you something about your health ancestry. There is already at least one company that will sell you a plan to analyze your DNA and keep you posted on information that becomes available related to your genome characteristics.
Some 3,000 people have already had their DNA sequenced (see the Boston-based Personal Genome Project), but the results fall short of being truly meaningful because there is no means of comparing them to a larger sample. The software platform for crunching all this valuable data that is set to pour into the information stream when the $1,000 mark is hit (and the critical mass of public interest is presumably reached) does not exist, yet.
Enter the UC Berkeley Center for Computational Biology and its recent partnership with Indian IT service company Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and its Innovation Labs. Their joint plan is to build the infrastructure to make sense of data from disparate databases and to encourage other corporate sponsors to financially support an open-source platform that would be accessible to anyone. It's being called the Berkeley Interpreter for Genome Variation (the BIG V?). Its first component will be the Genome Commons Navigator interpreter. The matter of unifying all of the databases will follow in a future stage of the project.
The initial funding of $900,000 by TCS is expected to reach $3-4 Million in total contributions to UC Berkeley in the course of the project.
The Center for Computational Biology exists within the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (qb3), a consortium of three UC campuses (Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco) with the practical mission to "develop the tools to predict biological processes, not just describe them... We want to emulate engineers who build models to determine if a circuit will work or how well an airplane will fly," according to Director Regis Kelly.
[For the UCB College of Natural Resources press release of this story, see Robert Sanders' March 31 article. Above image courtesy of qb3.]
If you are a Berkeley area research scientist or a supplier of laboratory equipment to the biosciences and would like to network with Berkeley research scientists, purchasers, and other industry reps in the Berkeley life science community, plan on attending the Biotechnology Calendar Berkeley BioResearch Product Faire™ Event on the UC Berkeley Campus June 17, 2011.