Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Genetic Revolution Is Happening in a Tiny Office or Coffee Shop near You

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Genetic Revolution Is Happening in a Tiny Office or Coffee Shop near You

Article excerpt

Byline: Rohan Silva

EPIC. That's the word that comes to mind when you visit the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. It's a vast campus just outside Cambridge, with hulking buildings full of data servers, genetic engineers and scientific researchers.

There's a real sense of history at Sanger, which isn't surprising because it's the place where British scientists working with a team in the US decrypted the entire human genetic code in 2003, a momentous event that was compared by President Clinton at the time to the feat of putting a man on the Moon.

Sequencing the human genome for the first time was a massive project it took 13 years, cost more than PS2 billion, and involved thousands of scientists, which helps explains the gargantuan scale of the Sanger Institute itself.

But as we've seen with computers, over time technology rapidly falls in price and shrinks in size, and that's no different when it comes to genetics. Today the cost of decoding a whole human genome has dropped to less than PS1,000 and can be done in a matter of hours.

As a result, genetic engineering technology is being opened up in much the same way that computers quickly went from something only wealthy organisations could afford to being affordable and commonplace.

This shift matters. All over London start-ups are now working on genetic technologies which previously would have been only possible for major corporations or public-sector bodies to do because the cost would have been prohibitive.

This bottom-up innovation grassroots genetics, if you will is happening in the most unlikely places. If you stroll up Hanbury Street, just off Brick Lane, you come to a fantastic coffee shop called Nude Espresso. Just next door is a little office the kind of place you might expect to find a small charity or arts organisation. …

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