Think for a moment that the first patient was hospitalised in Wuhan with COVID-19 on December 12, 2019. By January 11, 2020 – when 41 patients had been hospitalised – researchers in Shanghai were already able to sequence and share the virus’ DNA with peers around the world. And by February 24, 2020 Moderna, an American pharmaceutical company, used that information to submit an mRNA vaccine for testing. All of this was made possible by the dramatic reduction in the cost of genomic sequencing achieved over the last two decades. The cost of sequencing a raw megabase of DNA – a million rungs of the DNA ladder – fell from US₵0.35 in 2001 to US₵0.008 in 2020, a reduction of 99.99995%. This was made possible by an explosion of new businesses industrialising the process and taking advantage of ever cheaper computing power. And while exponential change of this order is rare, it’s certainly not uncommon. We’ve seen it in the consistently falling cost of semiconductors, high powered lasers, ba...

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