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XPrize Cancels $10 Million Genomics Challenge

Peter Diamandis

Peter Diamandis (XPrize Foundation)

The XPrize Foundation in Los Angeles cancelled a $10 million challenge to bring down the cost of genomic sequencing, saying the advance of technology has overtaken the purpose of the competition. Foundation chair and CEO Peter Diamandis announced the cancellation on Thursday in a Huffington Post article and on the challenge’s Web page.

The Archon Genomics XPrize promised a $10 million award to the first team to sequence 100 whole human genomes for $10,000 each or less. The genomes came from more than 100 people age 100 and over who donated blood samples from which cell lines and DNA were extracted and preserved.

XPrize first announced the competition in 2006. Since then, two teams entered the competition, one from Harvard’s Wyss Institute that includes geneticist George Church, and the other from genomic sequencing systems company Ion Torrent. With support from the Templeton Foundation, XPrize created a validation protocol to assess the quality of whole-genome sequences as part of  challenge.

“What we realized is that genome sequencing technology is plummeting in cost and increasing in speed independent of our competition,” says Diamandis. “Today, companies can do this for less than $5,000 per genome, in a few days or less – and are moving quickly towards the goals we set for the prize.”

According to Diamandis, it was the first competition cancelled by the foundation. The cancellation came early enough in the process, says  Diamandis, to enable the return of the $10 million prize money to its donators Stewart and Marilyn Blusson.

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