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X Prize Foundation Fleshes Out Genomics Competition


In recent months, the genomics community has heard rumblings that the X Prize Foundation will soon announce a cash prize for rapid, cheap whole-genome sequencing. According to a foundation spokesperson, however, the earliest the competition will be announced is this summer. The foundation is in the “prize discovery phase.”

“There are a lot of different things that go into this initial phase, which is determining the roadmap for funding, coming up with a proper, nonconvoluted set of rules,” says Ian Murphy, an X Prize Foundation spokesperson.

The nonprofit X Prize Foundation uses huge cash awards to encourage innovation in scientific fields. It awarded its first prize, for $10 million, in 2004 to Mojave Aerospace Ventures led by Burt Rutan for flying a specially designed aircraft to the sub-orbital altitude of 100 kilometers on two consecutive flights, within two weeks. The foundation is now branching out; projects for space, automobiles, and genomics are in the works.

While Craig Venter, who joined the X Prize Foundation board of trustees last year, initially brought the idea for a genomics prize to the board, Larry Kedes is heading up the advisory committee for the genome prize. Kedes, director of the Institute for Genetic Medicine at the University of Southern California, says the competition structure has yet to be defined.

One possible goal is to award the as-yet-undetermined cash prize to the first team to decode the DNA of 100 or more people in a matter of weeks. The committee will consider a number of other ideas, and, most likely, the competition will avoid specifying a dollar amount in its goal, such as sequencing a genome for $1,000. “We don’t want to have to call accountants in to prove the winner met that,” Kedes says.

— Kate O’Rourke


US Patent 6,998,251. Nanoporous membrane reactor for miniaturized reactions and enhanced reaction kinetics. Inventors: Andras Guttman, Zsolt Ronai, Csaba Barta. Assignee: Syngenta Participations. Issued: February 14, 2006.

The patent describes a method of contacting a first component and a second component with one of a nanoporous membrane comprising pores and a nanoporous bead comprising pores, wherein the first and second components are contacted within the pores, and producing a product from a reaction of the first component with the second component.

US patent application 20060024711. Methods for nucleic acid amplification and sequence determination. Inventors: Stanley Lapidus, Philip Buzby. Filed: February 2, 2006.

The invention provides methods for sequencing a nucleic acid by conducting rolling circle amplification on a circular nucleic acid template, wherein the resulting amplicon is optionally anchored to a substrate in an individually optically resolvable manner, and performing a sequencing reaction.



$20 million

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute will award $20 million over three years for research projects focused on identifying genetic variants related to heart, lung, and blood disorders, and their risk factors through genome-wide association studies. The institute expects to fund four to six projects.


A multi-center team has deposited the draft genome sequence of the rhesus macaque monkey into free public databases for use by the worldwide research community. The Macaca mulatta is the second non-human primate, after the chimpanzee Pan troglodytes, to have its genome sequenced, and is the first of the Old World monkeys to have its DNA deciphered.

Led by scientists at The Institute for Genomic Research and Ohio State University, a team of researchers reported the complete genomes of three emerging pathogens that cause ehrlichiosis: Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, and Neorickettsia sennetsu.

The J. Craig Venter Institute is conducting resequencing and genotyping research with the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University on five projects selected by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

There’s no shortage of Solexa news lately. The company, which has said it expects to recognize revenue from its instrument in the first half of this year and to be able to sequence a mammalian genome for $100,000 or less sometime in 2006, has gotten the attention of investment bankers. Analysts at Pacific Growth Equities initiated coverage with a ‘buy’ rating, while those at Leerink Swann & Company gave the stock an ‘outperform’ rating. Meanwhile, Nasdaq moved the sequencing firm’s exchange listing from the Capital Market to the National Market.

The Scan

US Booster Eligibility Decision

The US CDC director recommends that people at high risk of developing COVID-19 due to their jobs also be eligible for COVID-19 boosters, in addition to those 65 years old and older or with underlying medical conditions.

Arizona Bill Before Judge

The Arizona Daily Star reports that a judge weighing whether a new Arizona law restricting abortion due to genetic conditions is a ban or a restriction.

Additional Genes

Wales is rolling out new genetic testing service for cancer patients, according to BBC News.

Science Papers Examine State of Human Genomic Research, Single-Cell Protein Quantification

In Science this week: a number of editorials and policy reports discuss advances in human genomic research, and more.