First entrant for Genomics X Prize announced

26 July 2012

The first entrant to a genome sequencing competition has been confirmed, six years after the prize was first announced.

The company Ion Torrent has declared its entry for the Archon Genomics X Prize, a contest that offers $10 million to the first team able to sequence the genomes of 100 people in no more than 30 days at a cost of $1000 or less and an error rate no higher than 0.0001% (one error per million base pairs). The rules of the competition have been slightly revised from their specification in 2006, with the time limit being extended from the original period of 10 days and the genomes to be sequenced now being those of centenarians (see previous news).

The competition is intended to stimulate technological advances in sequencing in order to help bring it into regular clinical use, in particular by improving accuracy and reducing costs. The shift to centenarian genomes is hoped to help contribute towards understanding genetic links to longevity. The contest is run by the X Prize Foundation, a non-profit that aims to bring forward scientific breakthroughs through high-profile and high-reward competitions.

Ion Torrent intends to employ a method that detects miniscule changes in pH that occur each time a particular base is added to a strand of DNA, in contrast to the more common method of measuring emitted light. They claim that their method can sequence a human genome in about two hours.

The contest is scheduled to take place in September 2013. Entrants must pay a $25,000 fee and register by next May. The winner will be the first team to sequence all 100 supplied genomes to 98% completion within the specified error rate. In the event of no overall winner, there are a number of category prizes available. Full details are available on the X Prize Foundation website.

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