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Biotech Science

Contest To Sequence Centenarians Kicks Off 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the mining-our-old-people-for-boosterspice dept.
ananyo writes "The first competitor has swaggered up to the starting line for a contest that aims to push the limits of genome-sequencing technology. The X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, California, is offering a US$10 million prize to the first team to accurately sequence the genomes of 100 people aged 100 or older, for $1,000 or less apiece and within 30 days. Ion Torrent, part of Life Technologies of Carlsbad, California, believes that its semiconductor-based technology gives it a shot, and on 23 July it announced that it will compete. The Archon Genomics X Prize competition, to be held in September 2013, is intended to spur technology, boost accuracy and drive down costs — currently $3,000–5,000 per genome. Peter Diamandis, the X Prize Foundation's chief executive, says that the contest will help to establish a standard for a 'medical grade' genome, with the high accuracy needed to diagnose or treat a patient. This time, the X prize Foundation has relaxed the time frame, allowing competitors 30 days — rather than the 10 specified by the 2006 contest — and focused on centenarians, who might carry gene variants promoting longevity. The winning team will be the first to sequence all 100 genomes to 98% completion, with less than one error per million base pairs, and to determine which variants appear on which of the paired chromosomes."
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Contest To Sequence Centenarians Kicks Off

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  • Margin of Error (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stephanruby (542433) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @05:33AM (#40762079)

    Hopefully, they all told truth about their age [museumofhoaxes.com] and their age was double-checked, triple-checked, and quadruple-checked in different ways before they were selected for this study.

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @05:57AM (#40762177)

      Hopefully, they all told truth about their age [museumofhoaxes.com]...

      Assuming they were telling the truth, it would mean that people in that village actually age at a much faster rate than non-residents. One man from that village was 122 years old in 1971, and three year later, he was already 134! So yes, you die much older there, but your clock is going to be ticking really fast down there. Better hurry!

      • by dcsmith (137996) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @07:40AM (#40762569) Homepage

        Hopefully, they all told truth about their age [museumofhoaxes.com]...

        Assuming they were telling the truth, it would mean that people in that village actually age at a much faster rate than non-residents. One man from that village was 122 years old in 1971, and three year later, he was already 134! So yes, you die much older there, but your clock is going to be ticking really fast down there. Better hurry!

        Human overclocking! That's what this project is all about!

      • They are actually dog people so the 134 year old guy was really a sprightly 19 year old poodle.
    • Forget their ages, will the equipment used in this challenge smell like old people when it's done?
    • by Chemisor (97276)

      I guess we can't sequence any women then...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just count their rings.

    • They could have avoided all of that nonsense with a basic scientific experiment that every schoolboy knows! Simply amputate one of the purported centenarians legs and count the rings. Really, scientists can be so dim!
  • From a societal standpoint, it's not good to have elderly around, draining resources and hogging housing. In the UK recently, the elderly are "selfishly" (not my words, the government's) continuing to occupy family homes judged to be too large for them. There has been a drive to confiscate old people's houses as they have too many bedrooms, and multiple families could be housed in the same place. It's only the old people's selfishness that makes them want to live in such extravagant surroundings. The go

    • by ledow (319597) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:10AM (#40762213) Homepage

      Increasing longevity would presumably increase the useful working life of a person too. That increases taxes. Every year you get out of a person before they retire is another nine months they can "live for free" once they do retire (think about it - you work for, say, 45 years and you're retired for, what? 20-30?). Assuming that longevity also brings increase in health and working ages (which historically it has done - people used to die before they reached 30, now 65 is the retirement age!)

      As people get live longer, they also feel less need to breed immediately. This means fewer children, more widely spaced. This is why women are now putting off having children until into their thirties while a few generations ago that was impossible and they were more likely pregnant before 20. This, however, means that not only are there fewer children to support, but fewer working adults to support the generation about them later on (so it's 50-50).

      But there are numerous unquantifiable side-benefits. Living longer as an individual means that things like scientific research can go on for longer. We don't lose talent just through old-age. We keep geniuses around who have 50+ years experience of quantum physics, who can teach the next generation. This also means better education, better research, but comes at the cost of longer-held positions, less job opportunities, and longer time spent in education.

      So, basically, it's not an all-lose situation. Longevity has been increasing for centuries, if not millennia. It has advantages and disadvantages that, on the whole, balance out and even provide "profit".

      The problem we have is not longevity, per se - it's failing to adequately save for that retirement when working, and stopping working too early because we've hit an arbitrary age. The UK health system is also set up to encourage people to not save for private healthcare, which can be a problem when it comes to an ageing population (but I wouldn't give it up for the world, despite all the problems with it!) - other systems fare better under this sort of strain.

      Longer lives do not mean longer retirements, necessarily. If it works out, it means longer working life, shorter retirements, better pension coverage and MORE tax, not less.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "Increasing longevity would presumably increase the useful working life of a person too."

        65 year old: Doctor, I'm here for my pre-retirement check.
        Doctor: One moment, I have to give you this shot first. (gives him the needle)
        65 year old: What was that for?
        Doctor: Well, it's good news and bad news.
        65 year old: How come?
        Doctor: Well, the good news is that you will now live to a ripe age of 500 years!
        65 year old: And the bad news?
        Doctor: Well, you have to go back to work for the next 420 years!

      • by slashmojo (818930)

        Also of course living (much) longer means long space journeys and ultimately colonization becomes more likely.

        Being able to take a much longer view for big projects could open up all sorts of new opportunities that don't get much attention these days since people generally like to live long enough to see the fruits of their labours.

      • by dak664 (1992350)

        That assumes there are jobs available whereby those people can produce more than they consume. But if there are a decreasing number of productive jobs, more workers means more unemployed or doing work that is ultimately a drain on the economy like taking in other people's washing. Productive jobs are limited by resources, and most of the world is well past the point where more workers would allow more resource extraction.

        At some point humans will have to come to grips with a sustainable population and econ

        • Productive jobs are limited by resources, and most of the world is well past the point where more workers would allow more resource extraction.

          Where'd you pick up this gem? It's not true, so it blows you idea to pieces. There are lots of jobs that don't involve resource extraction. Accounting is a great example, where the job is to maximize efficiency in the use of resources, or teaching, which is only resource-driven if you're small-minded enough to think that any given person is interchangeable with another (which is also where the "produce more than they consume" canard springs from).

          Virg

    • by Coisiche (2000870)

      Yes, on reaching a certain age everyone should enter a competition on some carousel-like thing...

    • From a societal standpoint, it's not good to have elderly around, draining resources and hogging housing. In the UK recently, the elderly are "selfishly" (not my words, the government's) continuing to occupy family homes judged to be too large for them. There has been a drive to confiscate old people's houses as they have too many bedrooms, and multiple families could be housed in the same place. It's only the old people's selfishness that makes them want to live in such extravagant surroundings. The government pays fair market price for the dwelling, evicts the occupant into more suitably sized housing, and society benefits. The elderly consume fantastically large amounts of healthcare to allow them to live to such an advanced age. The best thing for society as a whole is for people to pass on just after they cease contributing taxes to the system. That way, much money is saved on pensions, social welfare, hospital care, and so on. In fact, in many cases, euthanasia is a preferable solution to old age, as is done routinely in The Netherlands.

      Given all this, why is increasing longevity a good thing? How does it help society? Taxes cannot be paid by people who don't work.

      Before you click that "-1 Troll" button, think about it for a moment. Attempt to formulate a thinking response. This isn't a troll, this is how many rational, educated people in government think about the elderly problem. Let's have some real discussion instead of burying real-world opinions with which we disagree.

      Let's see how you personally feel about what you just stated... when you get to be in your 70s. I'm there and I have neither health problems nor the desire to kill myself.

      • Nobody's talking about that. You're talking about yourself - much like the elderly in the UK, you can't see societal problems and can only think on a selfish basis. We're talking about society as a whole - and how society can best achieve goals laid out by the government. If you're living in a 5 bedroom house with your wife and people are living in tents elsewhere, it benefits more people for you to move to an apartment and allow the government to apportion the vacant housing to more deserving members of

    • by arobatino (46791)

      Given all this, why is increasing longevity a good thing? How does it help society? Taxes cannot be paid by people who don't work.

      It should actually be possible to save money, since people would need to spend a smaller fraction of their life in formal education, as opposed to paid work. This only requires 1) an increase in healthy life expectancy, and 2) the retirement age is increased accordingly.

    • by fleeped (1945926)

      This isn't a troll, this is how many rational, educated people in government think about the elderly problem. Let's have some real discussion instead of burying real-world opinions with which we disagree.

      So I assume these rational and educated people, after they retire, they would live in a small flat for a few years and would happily give their lives away to save money for the goverment? I don't think that's the case dude. Working for the better part of your life, and when you can't work you should die? Well if you support that, start with your parents. Let us know how that goes :)

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:54AM (#40762379)

      In the UK recently, the elderly are "selfishly" (not my words, the government's) continuing to occupy family homes judged to be too large for them. There has been a drive to confiscate old people's houses as they have too many bedrooms, and multiple families could be housed in the same place.

      Isn't that what real estate property tax is for? To drive out the elderly from property that has increased in value?

      Of course, if you live in California with proposition 13, that's no longer how it works anymore.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Solving a societal problem by the death of people who are causing the problem is contrary to what our society is about.

      This is the less trollish and flamebait answer I can find. If our social model does not allow for older people who want to live to survive longer, it is a sign that we must change our social model. I agree that higher longevity will cause troubles, but these are solvable problems. If we didn't accept to change our societies to improve them, we would still have slaves, routine torture of p
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, with the same logic, why not kill all those who are unemployed, sick, in prison, not contributing anything worthwhile to society, ....
      Instead of spending money on shitty countries in Africa, why not kill them all? Less HIV, less famine, less pollution, less immigrants, ...
      Would solve a lot of problems, wouldn't it?
      Or we could also kill all the Mexicans. After all, that would solve the drug wars.
      Or kill all the Arabs or the Israelis. Either one would solve most if not all the problems in the Middle Eas

    • by mspohr (589790)

      You are assuming that the only value of a person is the work you can get out of them.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      From a rational standpoint, yes, the elderly don't produce much and consume a great deal.

      On the other hand, what price would you accept to kill your grandmother or mother (depending on your age) if there were no legal consequences for doing so? Because that's ultimately what you're talking about is a situation where Grandma is dead, and you get more money. Us humans have a strong moral aversion to killing people, especially blood relatives, and for most of us profit isn't motivation enough.

      A few other reaso

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      From a societal standpoint, it's not good to have elderly around

      Evolution proves you wrong. The elderly are a store of knowledge and wisdom that the young can't possibly have, except when imparted by the elderly.

      For example, they'll tell you things that the history books neglect. Example: the RoaringTwenties. The history books say it was a prosperous decade. My grandmother, who was born in 1903, disagreed. It was indeed a boom time -- for the rich. Everyone else was struggling.

      When you get older you see the

    • by ckaminski (82854)
      Who the fuck cares if they pay taxes or not. By your metric, anyone who's poor should off themselves too, since they don't pay any taxes (appreciable per capita, anyway).

      Fuck off Troll.
  • From TFA:

    Clifford Reid, chief executive of Complete Genomics, worries that it will be difficult for the judges to assess the accuracy of the newly sequenced genomes. “The technologies participating in the competition are the only technologies for judging the competition,” he says, adding that he is hopeful that contest organizers can come up with “a clever solution that makes everyone happy”.

    Couldn't they just give all of the teams a set of identical DNA (for instance, the teams unknowingly share the DNA of 10 individuals) and compare the sequenced genomes to get an idea of how accurate they are?

    • by arth1 (260657)

      Couldn't they just give all of the teams a set of identical DNA (for instance, the teams unknowingly share the DNA of 10 individuals) and compare the sequenced genomes to get an idea of how accurate they are?

      They could, but I don't think the point of the "competition" is to find the most worthy winner, but to get research and algorithms for near free.

      • We already would've gotten the research (and possibly the algorithms, the assemblers for some of the commercial instruments are open-source, if I recall correctly) for free since the companies would've been published their results either way (or for whatever the cost is for you to access the publications), so I don't think that was the motivation for having the competition.

  • by dltaylor (7510) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:20AM (#40762247)

    inherited state (Lamarck wasn't totally wrong, it seems) and life history changes to the gene expression may matter as much, or more, than the raw nuclear and mitochondrial sequence.

    anyone know of a low-cost tool to capture that data?

  • Get it done, or no money. I kinda like that actually.

    Obviously, this won't work for fundamental sciences, but more applied sciences can be funded this way. I'm thinking of practical engineering and design types of research, which all too often get side tracked by unsolved fundamental questions.

  • A pretty young girl whose business card reads "The Howard Foundation" shows up at the bedside of several male subjects and says with a wink, "Have I got a deal for you."

  • After a century the soma cells are going to accumulate a significant number of mutation errors. The bad mutation become cancer or sencenence cells.
  • With all of these old people around what will happen to future generations of young people? Where will they play? The entire surface of the earth will be carpeted with lawns choked with past generations frisbees and balls. Think of the children!
  • Was I the only person who thought the phrase "kicks off" was a bit ambiguous when talking about centenarians?

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