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Life Technologies Announces $7M Contest as Ion Torrent Sequencer is Launched

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Life Technologies today announced a $7 million contest, the first phase of which researchers will be asked to produce better data more quickly on its Ion Personal Genome Machine sequencer, which the company also launched today.

In total, the Life Grand Challenges Contest will have seven individual challenges, each with a $1 million reward. In the first three challenges, contestants will be asked to use the Ion semiconductor sequencing technology to improve upon internal results achieved by Ion Torrent, the developer of the PGM platform, which Life Tech acquired in October for up to $725 million. They will need to produce twice as much sequence data, do it at twice the speed, and with twice the accuracy.

"The Grand Challenges are intended to incentivize the user communities that inevitably grow around open technology and encourage them to help accelerate discovery even further," Life Technologies Chairman and CEO Greg Lucier said in a statement.

Four additional challenges based on Life Tech products will be announced in 2011.

The judges for the first three challenges include Jonathan Rothberg, founder of Ion Torrent; Sidney Altman, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; and Aaron Klug, who won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The first phase of the contest comes in conjunction with the launch of the PGM platform, which uses semiconductor chip-based sequencing technology to measure the release of hydrogen ions as nucleotides get incorporated by DNA polymerase. Unlike other existing second-generation sequencers, it does not require lasers, cameras, or labels.

The instrument costs $49,500, excluding sample preparation equipment and a server for data analysis. The PGM is being shipped to select sites in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

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