The rules for a $10 million prize for leaps in genome sequencing just got a little easier—and a little harder. The Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by MEDCO was established in 2006 by the X PRIZE Foundation in Playa Vista, California, to encourage the rapid development of cheap, accurate human genome sequencing for medical purposes. At the time, the goal was to decipher 100 human genomes in 10 days for an all-inclusive cost of less than $10,000 a piece. Although eight organizations eventually signed on for the challenge, none actually tried to do the sequencing.
Since then, sequencing costs have plummeted, putting human genomes in the $10,000 range. But meeting the 10 days limit remained an impossible deadline. And the foundation and the sequencing community never really worked out how to judge the prize. As a result, they've decided to start over.
Today, in Nature Genetics and at a New York City press briefing, Larry Kedes and Grant Campany from the X PRIZE Foundation laid out the revised challenge, which includes a less tight deadline and other changes.
Under the new rules, starting 3 January 2013, the gun will go off on a race to sequence the genomes of 100 centenarians who are being identified by the foundation. The deadline will be 3 February, not 13 January, but winning the full prize will require that each genome cost no more than $1000. Entries will also have to meet stringent requirements for accuracy, 1 error per million bases, and completeness, 98%.
"I think [that price] is possible to achieve," says Granger Sutton, a computational biologist at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland. "But also hitting all the other standards will be very challenging."
If no one succeeds, the judges will award lesser prizes in different categories as long as entries meet certain minimum standards. If more than one group satisfies the grand-prize requirements, then the winner will be whoever finishes first.