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HAVING THE COURAGE TO TAKE RISKS

Outpaced by innovation, XPRIZE cancels a competition for the first time

HAVING THE COURAGE TO TAKE RISKS

You can’t pursue making the impossible possible without being willing to take risks. Every time an Apollo astronaut ventured into space, they risked the future of the program, the wide-eyed inspiration of a generation and their very lives. An XPRIZE competition is designed to either catalyze a current industry or create an entirely new one, but if the market outpaces the competition, it is our responsibility to reassess the efficacy of the prize. The $10M Archon Genomics XPRIZE competition to create rapid, low-cost, medical grade genomes, was such a case. Despite the cancellation, the competition did help generate significant visibility of the need for rapid, low-cost medical grade genomes, and created essential assets that will establish a legacy befitting the competition and the generous support of our sponsors.

Those assets include collected blood samples and created cell-lines to preserve the DNA from more than 100 centenarians whose genomes will be sequenced and put into an open data forum; and through the generous support of the Templeton Foundation, we created a Validation Protocol, the industry's first analytical tool for assessing the overall quality of whole genome sequences. Both have tremendous potential to benefit the genomics community worldwide.

GRAND CHALLENGE

Genomic research presents scientists with a tremendous opportunity to understand exactly how diseases develop at the molecular level, and how we can more precisely detect, prevent and treat diseases according to an individual’s unique genomic profile. Rapid, inexpensive and accurate genomic sequencing technology is required to advance medical breakthroughs and solve the underlying mysteries of diseases. The “medical-grade” genome is a critically needed clinical standard in transforming genomic research into usable medical information to improve patient diagnosis and treatment.

OBJECTIVE

Demonstrate rapidly deployable, highly efficient methods for cleaning up crude oil from the ocean surface.

COMPETITION

Back in 2006, we announced the Archon Genomics XPRIZE, which offered $10 million to the first team that could rapidly and accurately sequence 100 whole human genomes to a standard never before achieved at a cost of $10,000 or less per genome.

The 100 human genomes to be sequenced in this competition were donated by 100 centenarians (ages 100 or older) from all over the world, known as the 100 Over 100. Sequencing the genomes of the hundred centenarians presented a unique opportunity to identify those "rare genes" that protect against disease, while giving researchers valuable clues to health and longevity.

After careful consideration, XPRIZE decided that the competition was not incentivizing the technological changes that our prize chair, Dr. Craig Venter, our sponsors Stewart and Marilyn Blusson, and our board had intended. Genome sequencing technology was plummeting in cost and increasing in speed independent of our competition. 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. For this reason, we decided to cancel an XPRIZE for the first time ever.

PURSE PRIZE

Prize Purse: $10 million

TIMELINE

Launched October 4th, 2006. Cancelled 2013.

SPONSOR

DR. STEWART AND MARILYN BLUSSON.

Dr. Stewart Blusson and his wife Marilyn share an enthusiasm for the wilderness and the stimulation of discovery, and together they explore broad horizons. In 1981, Dr. Blusson left the Geological Survey to explore the formation of mineral deposits from Mexico to the Arctic, piloting his own plane and helicopter over vast areas. As XPRIZE partners and prize sponsors, Dr. and Mrs. Blusson saw the $10 Archon Genomics XPRIZE presented by Express Scripts as another exciting frontier. They recognized the possibilities as well as the urgency and importance of advancing our understanding of genomic sequencing to transform the future of healthcare. We cannot thank them enough for their support and partnership.

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