$10 Million Prize Offered for Quick, Cheap Genetic Test

Posted November 4th, 2011 at 10:30 pm (UTC-4)

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:

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

3 responses to “$10 Million Prize Offered for Quick, Cheap Genetic Test”

  1. roxane says:

    can you please tell me what time indiana time will it be passing thru as in 5pm or 2am i’m not good with navy time. also do you believe a person can predict a earth quake by looking in the sky?as well as hurricanes ?

    • Hi Roxane

      Thanks for checking our blog out and writing us. But, could you please provide a bit more information on your first question – what will be passing through? Glad to help answer it but could you give me a little more detail on this? Also regarding your other questions re: predicting earthquakes or hurricanes by looking in the sky… belief, I feel requires a little bit of blind faith… whether I believe its possible? I’ve learned that anything could be possible… but whether or not something is probable, well that’s another story. Personally, in the cases you cite, I must say that I’m a bit skeptical that someone can make such predictions by simply looking in the sky. But again, hey, anything is possible. But, I tell you what… lets put it to those who are reading this – what are your thoughts on Roxane’s question? Do YOU believe that a person can predict an earthquake or hurricane (or any other natural calamity for that matter) by just looking in the sky?

      Kind Regards,

      Rick Pantaleo

  2. roxane says:

    pardon me i was speaking on the astroid i believe was the topic i was gonna go out and look but i for got to go out side do you know aproximately the next time it might be passing thru .again.this was suppose to be seen on tuesday nov-8-11and this one was a little more special.
    one night i was out looking in the sky ,this was about 2003 in aug, and the sky the stars looked like they were in 3d it was beautiful the sky was full .is there a name for this. i love the sky i look up and see clouds that look like bears and other . i a have a question for you please i have a few times seen green clouds as well as yellow clouds why are they colored
    ?thank you.