Friday, October 06, 2006

Pocket Sequencer News II: Genomic X-Prize

Via Pharyngula, I learned of a prize, offered by a Canadian diamond-mogul geologist, of $10 million (USD) for sequencing the genomes of 100 people (Homo sapiens) in 10 days. I'd be surprised if this was acheived within the predicted 5 years, but I've been wrong before. I'm going to guess that this prize will be claimed in about 10 years, by late 2016.

Incidentally, the Wall Street Journal article linked to above is a little weird. I commented on the weirdnesses of the article over at Pharyngula (look for comment # 3), and I'll repeat those comments here:

I think this is a good idea, but the article has so much weirdness in it...

Minute variations in the spelling of DNA letters throughout our genomes account for why people look different, and why some are prone to certain diseases.

How do you misspell a letter?

Mr. Diamandis says the second batch of 100 volunteers, known as the "Genome 100," will be chosen and announced over time and will include ordinary people as well as celebrities.

Are they hoping to find a polymorphism associated with fame?

That means reading a person's entire genetic code -- which consists of six billion DNA letters arranged on 46 chromosomes -- is still too expensive to undertake routinely.

Actually, I really like this summary of the problem. Yes, we're diploids, and heterozygosity matters.

It will "attract teams from outside the stovepipe" who may make unexpected breakthroughs, he says.

Interesting metaphor. What the hell is "the stovepipe"?

The $10 million purse is being put up by Stewart Blusson, a Canadian geologist involved in discovering a trove of diamonds south of the Arctic Circle in 1991.

There's quite a bit of territory (even just within Canada) that's "south of the Arctic Circle". I guess he wants to keep the exact location of his find a secret.

Hopefully, this competition will result in spin-off technology useful for sequencing other species, since I agree that 100 species would be vastly more useful than 100 individuals of one species.

One more step down the long road to the pocket sequencer.

The only thing I'll add here is that I think this prize will help to spur development of technology relevant to the pocket sequencer.

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