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 to describe the rate of DNA sequencing or cost per sequenced base as a function of time.[1] It is the biotechnological equivalent of Moore's law. 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.[2]


The term was coined by The Economist[3] and is named after author Rob Carlson.[1]

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.

Next generation sequencing[edit]

Sequencing floor in BGI Hong Kong, showing the Illumina Hiseq 2000 sequencers

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


  1. ^ a b Robert H. Carlson (April 2011). Biology Is Technology : The Promise, Peril, and New Business of Engineering Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  2. ^ Robert Carlson (September 2003). "The Pace and Proliferation of Biological Technologies". Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science. 1 (3: 203–214): 203–214. doi:10.1089/153871303769201851. PMID 15040198.
  3. ^ "Life 2.0". The Economist. August 31, 2006.
  4. ^ "DNA Sequencing Costs". National Human Genome Research Institute.