Competition in 2013 Could Signal Dawn of New Era of Personalized Medicine
BOSTON — George Church, Ph.D., well known for his pioneering contributions to genomic science, announced last night that he is leading a team from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University in the Archon Genomics X PRIZE competition — a 30-day competition that is easy to get excited about, even for those who don’t wear a white coat to work every day.
Teams will vie to be the first to rapidly and accurately sequence 100 whole human genomes at a cost of $1,000 or less each, to an accuracy standard never before achieved — and to win up to $10 million as a result in the September 2013 competition. The genomes are being donated by 100 volunteer centenarians (ages 100 or older) whose “rare genes” could harbor clues to health and longevity.
Church, a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, made the announcement at the Consumer Genetics Conference in Boston.
“The sequencing of exceptionally old yet healthy individuals may tell us more about health than studies focused on so-called common diseases in younger individuals,” says Church, who is also the director of the Center for Excellence in Genomic Science at the National Institutes of Health and director of PersonalGenomes.org. “The importance of what types of DNA can protect against human ailments hasn’t been studied enough, and the availability of open-access genomic data on such individuals will be invaluable.”
Upon completion of the competition, the X PRIZE Foundation will compile a public database of the DNA sequences and cell lines from the “100 Over 100” genomes — which will be the world’s first medical grade genomes — giving researchers from around the world open access to this mother lode of data, which could help pave the way toward an era of precision medicine, Church says. The competition is presented by Express Scripts.
In addition to Church, the Wyss team is led by Senior Staff Engineer Richard Terry, M.S., from the Wyss Institute. Additional team members from the Wyss Institute include Staff Scientist Chao Li, Ph.D., Staff Scientist Frederic Vigneault, Ph.D., Staff Engineer Nick Conway, S.M., Staff Scientist Brian Turczyk, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow Jay Lee, M.D., Ph.D., and Research Assistants Benjamin Pruitt and John Harding. Research Assistant Gleb Kuznetsov, who works in Church’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School, is also on the team, as is Chief Technology Officer Kevin McCarthy from Kollmorgen Corporation’s Dover Business.
Find out more about the Wyss Institute at Harvard University team at genomics.xprize.org.