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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.


Typically, companies lower sequencing costs by releasing high-power machines capable of spitting out reams of sequencing data. That’s the approach Ultima and Illumina are taking. But not all sequencing users need to decode tens of thousands of genomes a year. So it’s notable that Element has reached a low cost per genome with a so-called mid-throughput instrument, which produces less data and is small enough to fit on a laboratory benchtop.

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