It’s a reality: the genome sequencing of all newborn babies and one day, of all unborn babies, is set to become "a routine test".
The United States envisage that, five years from now, parents will know all of the genetic predispositions of their newborn babies. In fact, American health institutions have just financed four research projects to the tune of 25 million dollars. The aim of these projects to be launched in early 2014 is to establish whether the genome sequencing of babies, which is already carried out in some states such as California, is "relevant". For five years, scientists will analyse the risks and benefits of generalising the genome sequencing of newborn babies from a technical, medical and ethical perspective. In just 50 hours or so, the genomes of babies enrolled in these research programmes will be sequenced for about one hundred dollars. The programmes will answer numerous questions raised by generalising this technique, namely how to use all the data, should doctors sort the information and should parents be told everything including the child’s predisposition for a disease for which there is no treatment or cure?
For Doctor Laurent Alexandre, chairman of the DNAVision Company specialising in tumour sequencing, France is taking the same path as the United States. He predicts that this sequencing will also be developed for unborn babies, "I think that 100% of babies will be sequenced [in France] in early 2020. And I share the belief that this sequencing will also be performed before birth". He claims that the obvious ethical problems arising from the generalisation of this technique to newborn or unborn babies "are not insurmountable": "There won’t be any ethical problems in 10 years’ time. People don’t want to wait for the first symptoms of a disease to appear".