Page URL:

$10m dollar race to sequence 100 genomes in 10 days

9 October 2006
Appeared in BioNews 379

The X Prize Foundation is offering $10m to the first private team that is able to sequence 100 human genomes in just ten days. It would currently take months, at the cost of millions of dollars, to sequence an individual human genome. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, says that it will take a cost reduction factor of 1,000 of the current price. He added, 'It's not going to violate any laws of physics to get there, but it is quite a stretch'.

The Archon X-Prize for Genomics is being funded by a $12.8m gift from Stewart Blusson, of Archon Minerals Ltd, a Canadian diamond excavation firm. It is the second challenge from the X Prize Foundation, who awarded $10m in 2004 to the first team that sent a private person-carrying craft to the edge of space and back. To add to the appeal of the current challenge, the foundation has recruited celebrities, millionaires, and disease sufferers to have their genome sequenced. The list so far includes Stephen Hawking, Larry King and Anousheh Ansair, whose family funded the previous space race.

The project is set to accelerate human genome research using a 'quintessential American method', says Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at Penn State University, US. 'They're using showmanship, marketing, appeals to the culture of celebrity to get it done'. The entire human genome sequence, the final draft of which was published in 2003, cost an estimated $3 billion, with mammalian genome projects today costing between $10-$50 million. In 2004, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) invited proposals to develop new, cheap technologies, aimed at developing a '$1000 genome' by 2014. It also sought to fund interim research to develop a '$100,000 genome', which is thought to be achievable within five years.

It is hoped that one day doctors will be able to treat patients using methods tailored to their individual genetic make-up, and that the X-prize project will jump start the technology necessary for such 'personalised medicine'. There are already more contenders in the genome race than there were for the space flight and observers predict a sprint race to the finish. As for the timescale, Leroy Hood, a member of the X prize scientific advisory board, says he does not expect the feat to be completed within 5 years.

Doubts have been raised about the feasibility and cost of such an immense project. Michael Metzker, Baylor College of Medicine (US), has said, 'I don't think the prize money really justifies the effort'. He says the 'real prize' will be the credibility gained by the successful team in the sequencing market. The foundation has said that extra money will be awarded once the project is completed, to map the individual genomes of the celebrities and other infamous individuals who have signed up.

$10m prize for super genetic test
BBC News Online |  4 October 2006
Genome sequencing X Prize announced
Nature News |  5 October 2006
Group offers genetic code mapping prize
The Seattle Post Intelligencer |  4 October 2006
Group Offers Genetic Code Mapping Prize |  4 October 2006
20 January 2014 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
The $1,000 genome may have arrived, an achievement which would mark a significant milestone in the application of genetic science...
30 July 2012 - by Dr Sarah Spain 
The 1000 Genomes Project, an initiative to sequence the genetic code of 2,500 people across five continents, has now successfully sequenced over 1,000 people's genomes...
1 November 2010 - by Owen Clark 
A four-year, £75m project to discover novel variations between human genomes has completed its pilot phase. Among the 1000 Genomes Project's initial findings are each person carries around 250 - 300 genetic mutations. Scientists have previously linked 50 - 100 of these mutations to inherited diseases...
22 February 2010 - by Maren Urner 
A fast, low cost DNA test that can reveal a person's chances of developing certain inherited diseases could soon be a reality, scientists in Scotland have said. The test involves testing a patient's saliva to identify disease-related variations in their genetic code and is faster and cheaper than conventional methods, according to the study published in the journal Angewandte Chemie....
17 August 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Third-generation 'single-molecule' technology has been used for the first time to read a human genome sequence. Professor Stephen Quake, from Stanford University, California, US, is only the eighth person whose genome has been published since the first breakthroughs were made in 2000. When this latest generation of technology is perfected the hope is that it will bring us one step closer to ‘the $1,000 genome' that will open the door to personalised medical treatme...
5 August 2005 - by BioNews 
Advances in genome sequencing technologies are bringing scientists one step closer to a time when it would cost as little as $1000 to read the entire genetic code of a person, two US teams say. A group based at Harvard Medical School has developed a method using beads and fluorescent...
1 March 2004 - by BioNews 
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is inviting proposals to develop new, cheap genome sequencing technologies, aimed at developing a '$1000 genome' by 2014. The entire human genome sequence, the first draft of which was published three years ago, cost an estimated $3 billion, with mammalian genome projects today...
22 April 2003 - by BioNews 
The final version of the entire human genome sequence was unveiled last week by the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, more than two years ahead of schedule. Since the 'rough draft' was published in February 2001, researchers have been proof-reading the sequence, and filling in most of the gaps. A...
30 September 2002 - by BioNews 
Several millionaires are said to be queuing up for a new service that will provide details of a person's entire genetic code within a week - for a mere £400,000. Craig Venter, former head of Celera, the US company that produced a draft version of the human genome in February 2001...
29 April 2002 - by BioNews 
Craig Venter, the scientist who led the biotechnology company Celera Genomics in its attempt to sequence the human genome, has announced that the genetic data used was largely his own. At the time, it was said that the genetic data used came from anonymous donors, and the sequence presented was...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.