X Prize: Geneticists Compete To Duplicate Genomes Of Centenarians

Sometimes genetics may counter bad lifestyle habits, but don't count on it yet: image via dumbpics.netSometimes genetics may counter bad lifestyle habits, but don't count on it yet: image via dumbpics.net

The search is truly on for what makes people live past 100 years ... aside from eating right, exercising regularly, and having lots of social contact.  It's about their genomic makeup, and Archon Genomics is holding a big, as in 10 million dollars, prize for the first genetics team to develop the sequence of genes that can produce medical grade genomes from 100 centenarians.  Personalized medicine, here we come!

The X Prize conditions have been announced, but the actual genomics race will not begin until January 3, 2013.  This early announcement affords contenders more than a year to prepare.  The good news is that humans are living longer, so finding 100 centenarians to participate should not be an insurmountable task.  According to the U.S. census data from 2010, there were more than 53,000 persons in the U.S. who were at least 100 years old. 

Researchers will be helped to recruit their subjects by the X Prize Foundation and Medco, one of the competition's sponsors, which plan to develop public awareness and understanding of the future of medicine (really growing old gracefully, one hopes), and to 'make heros' of the 100 centenarians who participate in the winning project. When the action begins on 1/3/13, participating geneticists will have up to 30 days to produce a duplicable, "accurate, faster, and more cost-effective sequencing technology," said Craig Venter of the J. Craig Venter Institute.

"While many new technologies have been developed over the last decade and many human genomes have been sequenced, there is still no technology that can produce a highly accurate, reproducible human genome usable for diagnostics and medical treatment. For genomics to truly impact health and diagnostic decisions for all of us, we need these technologies. We believe this competition will be the impetus to truly usher in the era of personalized medicine," Venter added.

The medical applications of centenarian research are innumerable, both in diagnostics and treatment areas. To spring forward with this effort, one of the main criteria of the X Prize is that the sequencing contain no more than one error per million base pairs.

sources: Extreme Longevity, U.S. Census Bureau Report on Age and Sex Composition: 2010, X Prize Foundation