Rethinking Healthcare

Genomics X Prize: Sequence genomes of 100 centenarians in one month

Genomics X Prize: Sequence genomes of 100 centenarians in one month

Posting in Science

Some people have successfully evaded diseases for 100 years. A new competition will award $10 million to the first team who can quickly and accurately sequence their genomes for $1,000 or less.

Announcing the $10 million Archon Genomics X Prize for the accurate sequencing of genomes from 100 healthy 100-year-olds.

The competition, presented by Medco Health Solutions, will be launched on January 3, 2013, and $10 million will be awarded to the first team to meet all the rules set by the X Prize Foundation, known to spur the development heretofore impossible technologies.

  • Accurate ‘medical grade’ sequences of the whole genome of 100 subjects,
  • Within 30 days for $1,000 or less per genome,
  • At an error rate no greater than one per million base pairs. (We have more than 6 billion pairs of nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA.)

The competition aims to study healthy consenting individuals, with ‘good genes’ that have helped them evade the diseases of aging into their 100s. They’re known as the Medco 100 Over 100.

“The goal of this competition is to push the industry to develop, more accurate, faster and more cost effective sequencing technologies,” says competition co-chair Craig Venter. “While many new technologies have been developed over the last decade and many human genomes have been sequenced, there is still no technology that can produce a highly accurate, reproducible human genome usable for diagnostics and medical treatment.”

The Archon Genomics X Prize was created in 2006, and it used to require sequencing 100 genomes in 10 days for under $10,000 per genome, according to Nature Medicine. There were no winners.

Today, you can get your genome sequenced for $4,000 or $5,000. “In my view, none of the existing technologies would be likely to win,” Venter tells the Los Angeles Times. “But at universities and new fledgling startups, people have invented some pretty awesome-sounding solutions that would be faster, lower costs and produce better-quality information.”

When the contest is over, all the data will be made available in a public database.

An editorial and commentary appeared in Nature Genetics last week.

Image: Genomics X Prize

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure