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Surprising Science

X Prize Takes on Human Genome

The X Prize Foundation will offer a $10 million prize to the first team that significantly boosts the speed and accuracy of D.N.A. sequencing, which could open wide new medical horizons. 

What’s the Latest Development?

$10 million is at stake for the first team of scientists to sequence the genome of 10 centenarians in 30 days for below a cost of $1,000 per sequence. The X Prize, which gives cash sums for solving vexing scientific problems, will judge the contest and award the money. Given current technology, the faster a genome is sequenced, the more inaccurate the results. The Foundation has therefore required a “medical grade” method for sequencing be found, if a team is to be eligible for the prize.

What’s the Big Idea?

J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in genome sequencing, established the prize and has now teamed up with the X Prize Foundation. Venter believes that genome sequencing will one day be an essential part of our medical evaluations: “Now we know that there are cancer drugs that work very effectively in people with certain genetic mutations. One of the first things you will want to know if you have cancer will be if you have any of these genetic mutations.” Centenarians were chosen to be sequenced because of their strong genes. 


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