The final keynote of the 2017 GHR Conference was Dr. J Craig Venter, who sequenced the first genome in 2000. Back then, it took 9 months and cost $9 million for just one genome. “I built the largest computer at the time – 1.5 teraflops – to accomplish it,” said Venter. Today, the same test can be done in just over a day and costs around $1,000, showing just how far we have come.
He shared more than just his work on the Genome, however. He also shared the work some of the recent advances he and his company are working on.
One finding with the potential to change how we research medicine was actually found within the genetics of mice, and that is: The essential genes of humans and mice are very different. This might sound obvious, but the ramifications could change how pharmaceutical companies conduct drug testing because these differences make testing on mice very inefficient and provide research data that provides little information about its impact on human health.
He also discussed advances being made in Restriction Spectrum Imaging. This discovery allows highly detailed scans to be made without contrast media – which 5 percent of people are allergic to – and is ushering in a new era of early cancer detection. They began testing the new scanning, as well as a new algorithm to help in detection, on “healthy people only,” that is to say people who reported feeling healthy with no outward signs of illness.
“One patient came in feeling fine, but we found a fairly large tumor in him. If we would have continued to live without that knowledge, it would have been too late.”
He continued showing the potential of Restriction Spectrum Imaging.
“As most men know, there are two types of prostate cancer, the one you die with and the one you die from, and this technique only shows the fatal one.”
Among everyone test, they found high-grade cancer in 2.5 percent of all patients over 50.
The scan can also help identify other potential health problems besides cancer. For example, in 23 percent of patients across all ages, they found instances fatty liver, a prediction of metabolic disease. They found, in 24 percent of patients a risk of Alzheimer’s. Finally, they found a brain aneurysm in 1 percent of patients, most under the age of 50.
He ended his presentation with a sentence that became increasingly obvious as his speech went on. ” You can’t tell me you’re healthy, but I can tell you.”