Which Would You Rather Have? Your Genome or a Bentley?

This car costs less than a human genome sequence — but not for long.

A story in the weekly science section of today’s New York Times profiles the first customer of Knome, a company started by Harvard University professor (and 23andMe scientific advisory board member) George Church that offers complete genome sequencing for a cool $350,000.

The first person to pony up the cash is one Dan Stoicescu, a Romanian-born biotech entrepreneur who said he’d rather spend his fortune on his genome than a Bentley or an airplane.

Some might interpret Stoicescu’s purchase as an expensive ego trip. But when you consider what he’s getting for his money, it’s clear that he is being anything but selfish.

“I view it as a kind of sponsorship,” Stoicescu told the Times. “In a way you can also be part of this adventure, which I believe is going to change a lot of things.”

Many of our customers feel the same way. But because our Personal Genome Service costs 350 times less ($999) than whole genome sequencing, in our opinion they get a much bigger return on their investment — in the form of education about what the latest research says regarding how different genetic variations relate to traits and conditions.

But there’s an even bigger return to come. As more and more people up for our service and contribute their genetic information to our research database, they’ll be able to participate in specific research studies designed to find genetic associations with their traits and conditions. This will be an opportunity not only to be part of the adventure, but potentially to reap its benefits as well. Our expectation is that through discovering more associations — which typically requires the study of thousands of individuals — we’ll move more rapidly toward early detection, prevention and personalized care.

Research is a numbers game; the more people who are enrolled, the higher the likelihood of its success. So if you’re thinking of shellling out $350,000 for your genome, you might also consider finding 349 people who share one of your traits (Type 2 diabetes? Crohn’s? Psoriasis?) and sponsoring them in 23andMe. And then let the studies begin!

Photo by Andrea Rinaldi/Flickr