July 23, 2012

Company Throws Name Into X PRIZE Ring For Genome Research

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Life Technologies Corporation announced it plans to compete for the $10 million X PRIZE by being the first to rapidly and accurately sequence 100 whole human genomes at $1,000 a pop.

The healthy competition will help jump start the world's first clinical standard that will transform genome sequencing into usable medical information to improve diagnostics and treatments.

The team competing will use the company's new bench top Ion Proton Sequencer in the competition, which enables chemical signals to directly translate into digital information for the first time. This device is like the CMOS imager in an iPhone that directly translates photons into electrons to take pictures.

"It would have cost $100 million and taken 33 years to meet this challenge when the competition was announced in 2006," Founder Dr. Jonathan Rothberg said in a press release. "The new Ion Proton(TM) sequencer is designed to sequence a human genome for $1,000 in just a few hours. Semiconductor technology is transforming sequencing just as it has transformed every other industry it's touched by driving research to ultimately improve health."

Registration for the X PRIZE ends in May 2013, with the 30-day competition taking place in September 2013.

Every team that enters the competition will be given the DNA of 100 centenarians to sequence. These genomes will include people who represent a unique population of individuals whose genetic makeup and personal behaviors have helped them live longer.

The participants have donated their genomes to this competition and provided insights about the factors impacting healthy aging in order to further medical science.

"Through this competition, the X PRIZE Foundation is setting a very high standard for the industry to ensure that whole genome sequencing technologies are reliable, replicable and can produce diagnostic-quality results. It is revolutionary," Robert K. Weiss, Vice Chairman & President of the X PRIZE Foundation, said in a press release. "Ion Torrent's registration and intention to compete is a dramatic statement about their commitment to delivering outstanding, groundbreaking technology."

X PRIZE Foundation will use the competition to compile a public database of the DNA sequences and cell lines from the Express Scripts 100f, which will allow researchers and scientists from around the world to have access to the data.

"They (Ion Torrent) have thrown their hat in a ring that will hopefully soon include other companies vying for the prize and the chance to make history and revolutionize medicine," Weiss said in the release.

Decoding the secrets to longevity could lead to important research that lead to a new era of personalized medicine, X PRIZE Foundation said.

The non profit organization creates incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development. It has conducted many prizes, including the current prize up for grabs in collaboration with Google to have teams send a robot to the moon. This prize includes a $30 million cash pile for the victor.