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What to do with the data?

Technological advances are allowing easier access to genetic data than ever before. And it’s hard for analysts to keep up.

Whereas mapping the first human genome took more than 10 years and $1.5 billion to complete, today it can be done in a month for about $20,000, says the Masonic Cancer Center’s Brian Van Ness, Ph.D. And that technology is racing ahead.

“There are companies working hard to be able to give you [your genetic profile] in a one-week turnaround for $200,” he says. “And the technology predictors say in two years you’ll have it.”

It’s a stunning amount of data to have at our fingertips. But Van Ness says it’s easier to get the data than to understand it. That’s why he’s also working with colleagues in the University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering to find better ways to analyze genetic data.

And while it may be hard to make sense of now, Van Ness believes this information will become more useful as scientists learn more about certain genes and how well they can predict disease.

“I do think that in the next 10 to 20 years, genetics will completely reshape the way we treat cancer,” he says.

By Nicole Endres

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