Moore's Law goes biotech
R Colin Johnson
11/6/2012 10:41 AM EST
The most bizarre twist in Moore's continuing legacy, however, came last
year when he donated his entire DNA sequence to science. The Moore
genome is now deposited in the European Nucleotide's Sequence Read
Archive (SRA, access number ERP000682). An amazing array of facts are
now public knowledge regarding Moore's genetic heritage, such as that
his mitochondria -- the submicron "life-force" organelle inside his
cells -- belongs to the most common haplogroup in Europe.
Moore's genome, however, had nothing to do with vanity. On the
contrary, it was based on the fact that Moore's Law now applies to
biotechnology, making his contribution to a public database the first
step in a process that will eventually benefit all of humankind.
the scoop: Moore's genome was the first to be sequenced on a new
invention called a "semiconductor sequencer" or "silicon sequencer."
DNA micro-arrays are passive and must use slow-working external optics
to read out their results from the millions of micron-sized wells in
which the donor's DNA is deposited. The semiconductor sequencer, on the
other hand, builds the DNA micro-array atop an active CMOS chip,
enabling electronics at the bottom of each well to instantly sense the
DNA sequence there.
The technique, called "ion semiconductor
sequencing," was licensed from DNA Electronics Ltd. (London) by Ion
Torrent Systems Inc. (South San Francisco, Calif.) just 20 miles north
of Moore' residence in Woodside. Moore consented to allow his genome to
be sequenced by its personal DNA sequencer, which uses standard
polymerase synthesis, but senses the results with ion-sensitive
field-effect transistors (ISFETS) buried at the bottom of each well.
Since each current generation CMOS chip has about a million wells, it
took over one thousand microchips to sequence the billions of bases in
Here's the punch line: since the silicon sequencer
is now based on a semiconductor chip, Moore's Law predicts that the
number of wells that fit on each chip will double every couple of years.
Consequently, by the end of the semiconductor roadmap circa 2024, a
single CMOS chip will be able to sequence anyone's entire genome.