Last week at CES, the X PRIZE Foundation was on hand to talk about the various competitions they are putting on. One, the Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Express Scripts, seeks a winning team that can sequence 100 human genomes in 30 days or less at a cost of no more than $1000 per genome with an accuracy of no more than one error per 1,000,000 bases with 98% completeness. We talked briefly with Grant Campany, a senior director with the X PRIZE Foundation, about the competition and the potential effects it could have on our understanding of medicine.
Scott Jung, Medgadget: What is the goal of the Archon Genomics X PRIZE?
Grant Campany: The competition is focused on driving innovation of whole genome sequencing technologies to a higher level of performance in terms of quality and lowering cost, which we feel are two major bottlenecks for widespread adoption. We’re incentivizing teams to perform whole genomic sequencing at a level that we call medical-grade. One of the challenges of this is how to transform the industry from primarily research application to medical application. The competition will in a way draw a bar in the sand by helping to determine what do you need for medical application. We’re looking at parameters that we think the industry will want to receive to encourage wider adoption of the technology.
Medgadget: What was the driving force behind starting the competition?
Campany: Recall in 2001 that Craig Venter sequenced the human genome, which took over three years and hundreds of millions of dollars to sequence just one genome. What’s happened over the last ten years is significant innovation. When the competition was launched in 2006, it still cost over a million dollars and 18 months to sequence one genome. Where we are today, the industry has evolved so fast that the cost and performance quality has improved even more. But can any of the teams satisfy our criteria? Right now, there’s no industry standard for performance and cost, so we’re creating that.
Medgadget: What are the implications of how this can affect healthcare and our understanding of the human body?
Campany: I think we’ll have a deeper understanding of what makes each of us unique. A big part of the competition is focusing on the genomes of 100 centenarians, some of the oldest people on the planet. We’ve formed relationships with many prestigious longevity research centers around the world for ethnic diversity, and the hope is that these people will demonstrate to the general public that it is safe, effective, and beneficial to have their genomes sequenced. It’s all about giving the patient information that they can use to be more proactive about managing their health. With this information, you’ll be able to know, for example, what types of cancers you’re susceptible to, and what makes you different from others. It’s really the goal to usher a new era of personalized medicine.
Medgadget: What other details should perspective teams know?
Campany: So far, we have a team from Life Technologies’ Ion Torrent and a team from Dr. George Church’s group over at Harvard already pre-registered. We’re hoping that a few more teams, perhaps from Oxford Nanopore or Complete Genomics will join as well. Registration ends May 31, so there’s still several months for you to sign up to participate. The competition officially begins September 5, 2013 and concludes 30 days later on October 5.
More information: Archon Genomics X PRIZE…