Professor Sir Shankar Balasubramian discusses the origin, development and impact of new technology to sequence DNA.
DNA is a linear molecule made up of four building blocks, often abbreviated to the letters G, C, T and A. The sequence of these four letters forms a code that comprises 3.2 billion letters in a copy of the human genome. The International Human Genome Project used an approach developed by Fred Sanger to generate the first human genome reference. This global collaboration spanned a decade.
Over 20 years ago, during the course of some basic scientific experiments, a collaboration with David Klenerman and Shankar Balasubramanian’s co-workers unexpectedly led them to conceive and then pursue a different way of sequencing DNA.
The initial experiments ultimately led to a rapid, low-cost sequencing approach, which was developed and commercialised through a company they co-founded, called Solexa.
Today the technique is able to sequence human, and other, genomes at a cost and speed that shows over a million-fold improvement compared to when the project began in 1997.
Sir Shankar reports on the impact of the technology on life sciences, medicine and society, and share a vision of what the future holds.