Genome sequencing "newcomer" Ion Torrent is the first contestant to qualify for the $10 million Genomics X Prize since the rules were revised last October, says ScienceInsider's Elizabeth Pennisi. The prize — which was first set up in 2006 as a challenge to see who could sequence 100 human genomes for $1,000 each during one month — was revised to lower the allowed cost per sequence, increase sequencing time, and establish that all 100 genomes have to belong to people 100 years or older, Pennisi says. The competition was set to begin in January 2013, but potential contestants complained there wasn't enough time to get ready in compliance with the new rules so the date was changed to September 2013.
"Although there were eight contenders for the X Prize before it was revised, Ion Torrent is the first to qualify under the new rules," Pennisi says. "Unlike other sequencers on the market, Ion Torrent taps semiconductor technology and uses chemistry, not light, to read the DNA being analyzed. Right now, Ion Torrent is planning on using eight machines for the contest, and plans to use its newly introduced Ion Proton model for the job." The company's CEO, Jonathan Rothberg, says the Ion Proton can sequence a human genome in two hours, and that they've already done 30 centenarians as a pilot project. "The minimum standard for the X Prize is one error in 100,000 bases, but the goal is one error in 1 million bases," Pennisi adds. "The genomes must be 95% complete, but preferably 98% complete and with genes assignable to each parent's chromosomes."