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Wyss Institute at Harvard University Enters $10 Million XPRIZE Competition

Wyss Institute at Harvard University Enters $10 Million XPRIZE Competition

Boston, MA, (October 03, 2012) — 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 XPRIZE presented by Express Scripts competition — a 30-day competition that is easy to get excited about, even for those who do not 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 “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 XPRIZE 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.

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.

About the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University ( uses Nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world. Working as an alliance among Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Arts & Sciences, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston University and Tufts University, the Institute crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers to engage in high-risk research that leads to transformative technological breakthroughs. By emulating Nature’s principles for self-organizing and self-regulating, Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing. These technologies are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances, and new start-ups.


Founded in 1995, the XPRIZE Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself. The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity. The XPRIZE Foundation conducts competitions in four Prize Groups: Education & Global Development; Energy & Environment; Life Sciences; and Exploration (Ocean and Deep Space). Prizes won include the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private, suborbital space flight; the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive XPRIZE for creating safe, affordable, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG energy equivalent (MPGe); and the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XPRIZE CHALLENGE for advanced rocket development. Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $10 million Archon Genomics XPRIZE, and the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XCHALLENGE. 

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