Sunday, October 08, 2006

The New Lab Sport: Extreme Sequencing

Today's mild nerdiness:

A $10 million prize for cheap and rapid sequencing of the human genome was announced [Oct. 5th] by the X Prize Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif.

The terms of the prize require competitors to sequence 100 human genomes of their
choice within 10 days, and within six months those of a further 100 people
chosen by the foundation.

[...] The announcement of the prize brought together two former rivals, Drs. J.
Craig Venter
of the Venter Institute and Francis S. Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which financed the government project to sequence, or decode, the genome.

The government and Dr. Venter sequenced draft versions of the genome. The cost of the version that the government completed in 2003 was probably around $500 million, though no precise figure has been given.

Some experts foresee a medical revolution if the cost of DNA sequencing can be brought low enough that a person’s genome could be decoded as part of routine treatment. Several companies have developed novel methods of sequencing, with the eventual goal of decoding a human genome for as little as $1,000.

The foundation has not determined a critical parameter, how complete the genomes need to be. The present “complete” human genome has many gaps and is only as complete as present technology can make it.

A worthy, if audacious goal. Perhaps the competitors would like to start by practicing on some model organisms, such as the zebrafish, for instance? Please? We're definitely in need of an improved genome build, and you all know that model organisms are crucial for research efforts to benefit humans. (Improved annotation would be lovely, too, thanks.)

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