$10 Million Prize Set Up for Speedy DNA Decoding
A $10 million prize for cheap and rapid sequencing of the human genome was announced today by the X Prize Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif.
The terms of the prize require competitors to sequence 100 human genomes of their choice within 10 days, and within six months those of a further 100 people chosen by the foundation.
The foundation chairman, Peter H. Diamandis, said the second list would include two groups, celebrities and patients nominated by groups involved with fighting diseases.
The notables who have signed up include Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft; the astrophysicist Stephen Hawking; the television interviewer Larry King; the financier Michael Milken; and Larry Page, co-founder of Google.
The foundation gained fame two years ago when its prize for building a spacecraft was won by a team led by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen. It now plans a series of prizes to motivate inventors and entrepreneurs, with its first two targets being the human genome and a fuel-efficient car.
The announcement of the prize brought together two former rivals, Drs. J. Craig Venter of the Venter Institute and Francis S. Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which financed the government project to sequence, or decode, the genome.
The government and Dr. Venter sequenced draft versions of the genome. The cost of the version that the government completed in 2003 was probably around $500 million, though no precise figure has been given.
Some experts foresee a medical revolution if the cost of DNA sequencing can be brought low enough that a person’s genome could be decoded as part of routine treatment. Several companies have developed novel methods of sequencing, with the eventual goal of decoding a human genome for as little as $1,000.
The foundation has not determined a critical parameter, how complete the genomes need to be. The present “complete” human genome has many gaps and is only as complete as present technology can make it.
Unlike the space prize, the genome prize is being offered in a field where the government has a vigorous grant program to encourage technology, and several companies are trying to accomplish the same goal for commercial reasons.
But Jonathan M. Rothberg, the founder of one of those companies, 454 Life Sciences of Branford, Conn., said the prize was welcome nonetheless.
“We formed 454 to sequence genomes economically, so it doesn’t change our mission,” Dr. Rothberg said. “But it surely motivates our employees and energizes the investment community.”
His company will compete for the prize.
Dr. Rothberg added that he expected that human genomes could be sequenced for $10,000 within 10 years or less, assuming that some reasonable standard of completeness was required, meaning one that allowed gaps to exist for the regions that are still too difficult to decode. Those regions are thought to contain few genes, if any.
Stanley N. Lapidus, chief executive of another DNA-sequencing company, Helicos Biosciences of Cambridge, Mass., said the prize was “a wonderful thing for focusing the public’s attention on the promise of genomics.”
The idea for the genome X prize grew out of a $500,000 prize offered in 2003 by Dr. Venter for being the first to sequence the human genome for just $1,000. The $10 million for the X prize is being put up by Dr. Stewart L. Blusson, president of Archon Minerals Ltd. and co-discoverer of the Ekati diamond mine at Lac de Gras, between Yellowknife and the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
The sole individual genome sequenced so far belongs to Dr. Venter, whose draft of the genome prepared by his company, Celera Genomics, turned out to be his own.
In addition, 454 Life Sciences has been working to decode the genome of Dr. James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA structure.
The genome decoded by the government was a mosaic of genomes from anonymous individuals.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
$10 Million Prize Set Up for Speedy DNA Decoding - New York Times #NWO #eugenics #Milken