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SAN FRANCISCO — Decoding the billions of chemical letters that help shape who we are once cost a fortune. But genomics startup Element Biosciences on Wednesday announced it can now read a whole human genome for as little as $200 — the cost of a couple trips to the grocery store.

Element’s announcement, made during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, comes after Illumina and Ultima made commitments to bring the cost of reading a whole genome down to $200 and $100, respectively. But neither company has delivered on those plans just yet, whereas Element’s reduced price is immediately available on an instrument it launched last year.

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