At the very start of 2020, it took less than two days for a laboratory at the Shanghai Public Health to sequence the genome of Sars-CoV-2.1
Without advanced genomic-sequencing technology, authorities would have been unable to track the spread of the virus. They would have had no idea whether control measures were working. They would not know about the variants that have since developed or how their symptoms differ. And scientists would be powerless to adapt the vaccines to respond to new strains of the disease. Genomic sequencing identifies the enemy; without it, we are fighting blind.
Although Covid-19 put genomic sequencing in the spotlight, its technologies have been advancing rapidly over the last decade.
For example, oncologists previously defined a patient’s cancer type by the origin of the organ in which it was found. Thanks to what is known as “next-generation sequencing,” they now have much more information about the genomic profile of different types of cancers, and this, in turn, has completely changed the way oncologists approach treating the disease—by using therapies that target the gene mutations that cause malignant tumors.
Today, analysts predict that the global market for DNA and genomic sequencing, worth US$8.4 billion in 2020, is set for accelerated growth over the next decade: by 2030, it is expected to be worth US$40.6 billion.2 The cost of sequencing a whole genome is now around US$600,3 whereas in 2011 it was approximately US$10,000.4 While still in the early stages of its adoption, the use of sequencing is only set to increase, at pace, as the cost of sequencing continues to fall.
The Walter Scott investment team.
1 “Novel 2019 coronavirus genome,” Virological.org, January 10, 2020.
2 “DNA sequencing market – Growth, Trends, Covid-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2022 – 2027),” Mordor Intelligence.
3 “We are witnessing a revolution in genomics – and it’s only just begun,” WE Forum, June 24, 2019.
4 “The advent of personal genome sequencing,” Genetics in medicine, February 9, 2011.
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