Ten million dollars is up for grabs to the first team of scientists which can accurately sequence the genetic code of 100 centenarians within 30 days, and do it for up to $1,000 per person.

The huge monetary prize is offered by the X PRIZE Foundation,which seeks to encourage “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”

The foundation made headlines back in 2004, after awarding $10 million to Mojave Aerospace Ventures, a private company which built and launched the first manned private spaceflight.

The results of the latest competition could set a new clinical standard for genomic sequencing, according to foundation officials.  They also hope the research findings will help usher in a new era of personalized medicine.

Grant Campany, senior director of the Archon Genomics X PRIZE, says a main reason for the competition is that there is currently no standard way of measuring the quality of whole genome sequences, which has hindered the development of medical and diagnostic applications of whole genomic sequencing.

Although there are a number of companies that provide genomic sequencing, Campany says they often derive different results from the same DNA. As a result,  crucial research is limited because doctors and scientists don’t have a high level of confidence in the various results.

The 100 subjects whose genomes will be sequenced in this competition aren’t just anyone. Each of the selected subjects will be at least 100 years old.  Called the “Medco 100 Over 100,” the centenarian subjects are being recruited through a worldwide public search.  Anyone 100 years of age or older can be nominated to participate in the research effort.  The nomination process can be completed online at the Archon X-Prize website.

Campany says the foundation asked the scientific community which group of people would be best for this study.  The almost unanimous choice was  the oldest of the old.  Sequencing the genomes of those 100 and older will give researchers an unprecedented opportunity to identify rare genes which protect against diseases, yielding valuable clues to health and longevity.

Along with the competition itself, prize organizers have created an online community to showcase the centenarian subjects.  Called “Life at 100,” it will allow the centenarians and their families to create profiles and display their photos and videos,  providing a means for them to share their personal experiences with the public.

Once the competition ends in February 2013, the X-PRIZE Foundation will compile a public database of the DNA sequences and cell lines from the “Medco 100 Over 100” genomes. Researchers and scientists worldwide will be allowed open access to the incredibly rich and unique data.  Officials say the knowledge gained by compiling and comparing the results will further the understanding of health and longevity, possibly decoding its secrets, leading to radical medical breakthroughs.

Grant Campany joins us this weekend on the radio edition of “Science World.”  Campany will talk about the competition, what they hope to learn from it and how it could someday benefit mankind. So, either tune into the show (see right column for scheduled times) or check out the interview below.

>>>> Listen to the interview here

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Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include: