Carlson Curve

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Total cost of sequencing a human genome over time as calculated by the NHGRI.

The Carlson Curve is a term coined by The Economist[1] to describe the biotechnological equivalent of Moore's law, and is named after author Rob Carlson.[2] Carlson predicted that the doubling time of DNA sequencing technologies (measured by cost and performance) would be at least as fast as Moore's law.[3] Carlson Curves illustrate the rapid (in some cases above exponential growth) decreases in cost, and increases in performance, of a variety of technologies, including DNA sequencing, DNA synthesis and a range of physical and computational tools used in protein production and in determining protein structures.

Moore's Law started being profoundly out-paced in January 2008 when the centers transitioned from Sanger sequencing to newer DNA sequencing technologies :[4]

  • 454 sequencing (average read length=300-400 bases): 10-fold
  • Illumina and SOLiD sequencing (average read length=50-100 bases): 30-fold.


  1. ^ "Life 2.0.". The Economist. August 31, 2006. 
  2. ^ Robert H. Carlson (April 2011). Biology Is Technology : The Promise, Peril, and New Business of Engineering Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 
  3. ^ Robert Carlson (September 2003). "The Pace and Proliferation of Biological Technologies". Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 1 (3: 203-214). doi:10.1089/153871303769201851. 
  4. ^ "DNA Sequencing Costs". National Human Genome Research Institute.