SAVANNAH, GA Sept. 23 (GenomeWeb News) - Just before lunch today at the GSAC conference, Craig Venter stood before the crowd and announced a mouth-watering proposition: a $500,000 Genomic Technology Prize to be awarded by the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation to a person or organization that develops technology "to significantly advance" automated DNA sequencing toward making the $1,000 genome a reality.
"Look at [the number of] important medical, and environmental advances that would happen if we could sequence a genome in the same time as we are having this conversation," Venter told GenomeWeb News today after the session ended. While this holy grail of genomics is still some time away, Venter said the prize was one of the "novel ways" to shorten the time course of discovery for this new technology. "We hope it will be an exciting stimulant for scientists," he said.
Currently, it costs about $300,000 to $500,000 to sequence the gene and regulatory regions of a human genome, and about $25 million for 5X coverage of the genome, according to the foundation. "It is necessary that these cost decrease significantly toward the $1,000 mark," the foundation said in announcing the prize. "Once this threshold has been reached it will be feasible for the majority of individuals to have their genome sequenced and encoded as part of their medical record."
The foundation is setting up an international prize committee "that will be making the initial evaluation of what are to be considered the seminal advances that permit" the $1,000 genome to be possible, Venter told the GSAC audience.
The prize is to be awarded one time only. The foundation will announce the complete rules and procedures for prize applications in late December 2003, after a meeting of its Prize Committee, according to the foundation's press statement (http://www.venterscience.org/news.html).