Euan Ashley is a professor of medicine and genetics at Stanford University. He was born in Scotland and graduated from the University of Glasgow. He attended Oxford University, completing a Ph.D. there before moving to Stanford University, where he trained in cardiology and genetics. After joining the faculty, he led the team that carried out the first medical interpretation of a human genome. Ashley has received innovation awards from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. He was recognized by the Obama White House and received the Medal of Honor from the American Heart Association.
Dr. Ashley’s articles have appeared in many journals, including the Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Nature, and Cell. He appears regularly on local and national radio and TV. He is the founder of three companies and advisor to several well known Silicon Valley companies. With three young children, he spends his spare time trying to understand American football, play the saxophone, and conduct research on the health benefits of single malt Scotch whisky.
Since the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, the price of genome sequencing has dropped at a staggering rate. It’s as if the price of a Ferrari went from $350,000 to a mere forty cents. Through breakthroughs made by Dr. Ashley’s team at Stanford and other dedicated groups around the world, analyzing the human genome has decreased from a heroic multibillion dollar effort to a single clinical test costing less than $1,000.
For the first time we have within our grasp the ability to predict our genetic future, to diagnose and prevent disease before it begins, and to decode what it really means to be human.
In The Genome Odyssey, Dr. Ashley details the medicine behind genome sequencing with clarity and accessibility. More than that, with passion for his subject and compassion for his patients, he introduces readers to the dynamic group of researchers and doctor detectives who hunt for answers, and to the pioneering patients who open up their lives to the medical community during their search for diagnoses and cures.
He describes how he led the team that was the first to analyze and interpret a complete human genome, how they broke genome speed records to diagnose and treat a newborn baby girl whose heart stopped five times on the first day of her life, and how they found a boy with tumors growing inside his heart and traced the cause to a missing piece of his genome.
These patients inspire Dr. Ashley and his team as they work to expand the boundaries of our medical capabilities and to envision a future where genome sequencing is available for all, where medicine can be tailored to treat specific diseases and to decode pathogens like viruses at the genomic level, and where our medical system as we know it has been completely revolutionized.
Thank you to Celadon Books for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
I decided to do this one differently than how I normally write my reviews because it is a non fiction book. I didn’t want to talk about characters even if there are some because that wouldn’t tell you much about the book. I will comment on each part of this book as well a the writing style because I think that’s more important when deciding if you want to read this book.
This is a book that I believe you could decide only to read a part of it and still get something out of it. You might be a little confused when you start on a different part but I think you’ll be intrigued enough that you’ll want to go back and read other parts.
This part of the book is an introduction to the team and how they became a part of this team. You get to meet different people through each of the chapters and get to know their backstory. I really enjoyed getting to know more about these people and their motivations behind working with genomes. I thought it was important for the book to open with this introduction so that as you continue reading you know who is who. You also know why they are working together and what it is that each of them specifically do.
This part gives you a brief overview of some of the patients that the group introduced to you in part one is working on and with. This portion of the book is showing you how genome medicine is basically detective work and how each of the cases they were given were solved. This portion is really interesting because you hear about people who have been searching for an answer to their ailments for so long and finally have their answer. It was so interesting to see what those answers were and how they wouldn’t have a solution without genome medicine. I also thought that this section really showed the importance of having this type of medicine available to everyone and not just the select few who could afford it.
This portion focuses on the author’s cardiac patients and the stories that he found most important to tell. This is actually my favorite portion of this book because you can feel the author’s emotions coming through on the page. Each chapter tells the story of a different cardiac patient of the author and you get wrapped up in the story right from the start of each chapter, wanting to know what happens to this patient.
This portion of the book focuses on the future of genetic medicine and how looking at “superhumans” can help make other people just as “super.” The author focuses on new efforts on genome sequencing and advancing in curing genetic diseases. I winded up skimming through this part of the book as I didn’t find it as intriguing as the rest of it. This part was a bit hard to follow and it didn’t seem to flow as well as the others parts.
Writing Style: This book is told in four parts and takes stories that the author has along with stories that he borrows from the other people involved in this project. I really liked how this book is separated into four parts and found that the way it separates is done well.