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Local biotechs slash cost of genetic mapping

Medical ResearchChemicalsBiotechnology IndustryChemical IndustryIllumina, Inc.

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Major breakthroughs in genetic mapping were announced Tuesday by rival biotechnology companies from the San Diego area.

Both Life Technologies and Illumina said they developed genome-mapping machines that will cost approximately $1000 per genome while also cutting down on result times considerably.

"The $1000 genome is important because it will allow a large number of genomes to be sequenced which will enable the underlying causes of disease to be discovered," said Rob Bennett, vice -president of research and development for Life Technologies.  "Current technology will sequence a genome at a price tag of over $5000."

The traditional way of mapping genes involved using high-powered microscopes - a method that can be extremely expensive.

Life Technologies, a Carlsbad-based company, doesn't use microscopes at all, opting rather for semi-conductor technology to scan DNA and map the genome.  

Semi-conductor technology is much cheaper and much more common, found in a number of different electronic equipment like cell phones.

"But even more exciting is the fact that this technology can sequence a genome in a matter of hours instead of days or weeks," Bennett said.  "If you really want to determine predisposition to disease in a rapid fashion, this is the technology to do it."

Sequencing the genome can help someone figure out any predisposition they may have to genetic diseases.

"We all believe that sequencing will unlock the key to genetic disease and that's really where people in this lab get their drive, get their excitement from," Bennett said.

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