JASON and Genomics

By Dan Dupont / January 13, 2011 at 6:25 PM

The Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News has something of a pipeline for reports from the JASON defense advisory panel, this week turning up a new one on genomics.

From the blog:

The technology for sequencing human DNA is advancing so rapidly and the cost is dropping so quickly that the number of individuals whose DNA has been mapped is expected to grow "from hundreds of people (current) to millions of people (probably within three years)," according to a new report . . . from the JASON defense science advisory panel. The Defense Department should begin to take advantage of the advances in "personal genomics technology" by collecting genetic information on all military personnel, the panel advised.

The cost of sequencing complete human genomes has been falling by about a factor of 30 per year over the last six years, the JASONs said. As a result, "it is now possible to order your personal genome sequenced today for a retail cost of under ~$20,000" compared to around $300 million a decade ago. "This cost will likely fall to less than $1,000 by 2012, and to $100 by 2013." . . .

For military purposes, it will be up to the Department of Defense "to determine which phenotypes . . . have special relevance to military performance and medical cost containment" and then presumably to select for those. "These phenotypes might pertain to short- and long-term medical readiness, physical and medical performance, and response to drugs, vaccines, and various environmental exposures. . . . More specifically, one might wish to know about phenotypic responses to battlefield stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder, the ability to tolerate conditions of sleep deprivation, dehydration, or prolonged exposure to heat, cold, or high altitude, or the susceptibility to traumatic bone fracture, prolonged bleeding, or slow wound healing."

Secrecy News has a copy of the report posted here.