Most people, though not all, who made an editorial comment disagreed with us. And, ok, it's hard to go into detail in 140 characters, but the comments were pretty uninspired, shall we say (along the lines of "Is whole genome sequencing fading? The answer is No!"), but even so, to us, an indication that we'd hit a nerve. As far as we can tell, the argument is that because sequencing is still being done, it should continue to be.
This looks to us basically like some serious circling the wagons going on. People with vested interest in the status quo protecting their interests. Ok, fair enough, and understandable. But, this does the science a disservice. There are serious issues here -- tweeting about how sequencing has to happen because it's happening just doesn't do them justice.
As Ken posted yesterday, writing about why whole genome sequencing hasn't met the promises made about it:
There are too many variants to sort through, the individual signal is too weak, and too many parts of the genome contribute to many if not most traits, for genomes to be all that important--whether for predicting future disease, normal phenotypes like behaviors, or fitness in the face of natural selection.As he also wrote, there are some traits for which one or a few genes are important, and working those out is where the genetics money should be spent. Doing whole genome sequencing because we'll surely learn something even if we don't yet know what, or because personalized medicine is just over the horizon, or just because we can, are not good reasons to keep spending the kinds of money on this that we're spending. We know enough now to know that genomic contributions to most traits are multiple, varied and complex.
This is not an admission of defeat. This is an acknowledgement that we've learned a lot of genetics in the last century, reinforced clearly by the new sequencing technology; and what we've learned is that most traits are multifactorial, due to gene by gene and/or gene by environment interactions, there are most often many pathways to the same phenotype, and so on. We should give up the conceit that we're going to be able ubiquitously to predict and prevent diseases based on genomes, and get on with solving problems. Those that are genetic need genetic approaches. But there are other issues, and other ways, to learn about evolution, disease, and the basic nature of life.