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New San Diego Biotech Company Targets Aging With Lots (And Lots) Of Genome Sequencing

Evening Edition

Aired 3/6/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Scott Lippman, Director, Moores Cancer Center

Lisa Madlensky, Genetic Counselor, UC San Diego Health Center

Transcript

J. Craig Venter was one of the first scientists to sequence a human genome. A decade later, he's hoping to push genomics forward again with a new San Diego-based company.

In its Tuesday launch, Human Longevity Inc. outlined its goal to better understand the aging process by sequencing 40,000 genomes in its first year.

The scale of Venter's latest effort wouldn't be possible without progress made by another San Diego company, Illumina. Human Longevity Inc will rely on Illumina's latest gene sequencing technology, which brings the cost of sequencing an individual genome down to $1,000. That's quite a price cut from $100 million, the original cost of sequencing when Venter raced to complete the first genome.

Human Longevity co-founder Peter Diamandis believes it's now feasible to study enough sick and healthy people to pinpoint the genes driving long, healthy lifespans.

"We're going to be creating one of the world's largest databases," Diamandis said. "It will allow us to really unlock what's going on — why some people live to be centenarians and why some people don't."

Consenting patients at UC San Diego's Moores Cancer Center will be among the first to have their genome sequenced by Human Longevity Inc. The company also wants to study healthy individuals 100 years and older.

Human Longevity plans to make money by eventually selling their data to researchers and biotech companies. And Diamandis thinks San Diego is a perfect home base for the new company.

"Just like Silicon Valley was the gravitational center for a lot of the computer and network and online startups, I think we're going to see San Diego become the gravitational center for a lot of biologics," he said.