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​Carlos Bustamante: Genomics has a diversity problem

​A geneticist explains how the relatively young science of genomics has the potential to reveal the mysteries of the living world, but first it has to be more inclusive.

A computer screen showing multicolored letters A, T, C, and G that make up DNA genetic sequences

A computer screen displays part of a human genetic sequence. | Science Source/Philippe Plailly

Carlos Bustamante is an expert in genomics — the study of genetic variation and its effects on the living world.

He says genomics holds tremendous promise but, so far, virtually all sequenced DNA comes from European blood lines and this presents a problem.

Without greater diversity in the genomic data that is collected, he notes that we cannot fully reap the benefits of this knowledge, particularly in areas such as healthcare.

“Genomics is the new oil,” Bustamante says, of the opportunities that lie ahead. It’s being used for everything from studying rare diseases to developing more effective drugs. Before its potential can be fully realized,however, genomics will have to address its diversity problem. The more genetic variants that are represented in the genomic data collected, the better equipped we’ll be to understand and improve human health. 

Join host Russ Altman and geneticist Carlos Bustamante for a peek into the wonders of genomics.

You can listen to the Future of Everything on iTunes, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher or via Stanford Engineering Magazine.