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Biotech Science

XPrize Pulls Plug On $10 Million Genomics Competition 36

Posted by Soulskill
from the over-and-out dept.
sciencehabit writes "The XPrize Foundation has scrapped its high-profile $10 million genomics challenge set for next month after attracting only two competitors to the sequencing contest. The Archon Genomics XPRIZE began with much fanfare 7 years ago with the aim of boosting medical genomics by offering a $10 million award to the first team to sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days for no more than $10,000 each. After complaints about the tight deadline and unclear judging criteria, the foundation revised the rules in October 2011: The objective was to sequence the genomes of 100 centenarians with high accuracy and 98% completeness within 30 days for $1000 or less. Interest was tepid, however, and only two of the eight contenders in the original contest registered by the 31 May deadline — the company Ion Torrent, and George Church's lab at Harvard University."
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XPrize Pulls Plug On $10 Million Genomics Competition

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  • by arobatino (46791) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @09:55PM (#44692881)

    What we realized is that genome sequencing technology is plummeting in cost and increasing in speed independent of our competition. Today, companies can do this for less than $5,000 per genome, in a few days or less - and are moving quickly towards the goals we set for the prize.

    If you look at the graphs at https://www.genome.gov/sequencingcosts/ [genome.gov] what it actually shows is that after plummeting faster than Moore's Law for 3 years between 2008 and 2011, the cost has been basically flat for the past year and a half, probably due to lack of competition [blogspot.com].

    • by Teancum (67324)

      What exactly is the market for sequencers and people wanting to know their DNA sequence? It doesn't sound exactly like a mass consumer item, except perhaps those who want to spend some time on Jerry Springer's TV show (or other talk shows that do DNA matches between random boyfriends and the babies of unwed mothers). A lack of competition also seems to be a lack of customers. No doubt there are people who are willing to pay for sequencing at the current price (including several government agencies for va

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      What we realized is that genome sequencing technology is plummeting in cost and increasing in speed independent of our competition. Today, companies can do this for less than $5,000 per genome, in a few days or less - and are moving quickly towards the goals we set for the prize.

      If you look at the graphs at https://www.genome.gov/sequencingcosts/ [genome.gov] what it actually shows is that after plummeting faster than Moore's Law for 3 years between 2008 and 2011, the cost has been basically flat for the past year and a half, probably due to lack of competition [blogspot.com].

      Or it could be simple supply and demand and the market, so to speak, has reached equilibrium. With cuts in federal research dollars, manufacturers of sequencers can either lower the price of their wares or leave the price alone and not sell any. It's basic econ 101.

      • Another factor is the experimental costs don't include the computation costs of assembling the sequences afterwards. At the moment this is probably comparable to the experimental costs for hardware, electricity and paying someone competent to do it. (Turning a few Terabytes of ~100base pair reads into one whole 400 megabase genome isn't trivial.)
  • Why? It's not like every Mom & Pop operation around could enter this contest to begin with....
  • According to the TFA, the prize was cancelled because advances in technology have enabled teams to actually win. Hmm...

    1. Hold contest to motivate scientists to achieve technological leaps
    2. Cancel contest when winning is inevitable
    3. Profit!

    • You forgot the part where only two companies entered. Sure it's a race, but it's not much of one.

      • by kanweg (771128)

        "You forgot the part where only two companies entered. Sure it's a race, but it's not much of one."

        Watching the contest in progress would not be a spectator sport. The goal is not a spectacular race. The objective of the XPrize is to achieve a spectacular goal, by providing a financial incentive. For that reason, two contestants is enough to provide a drive to be first. After all, in XPrizes every contestant other than the winner is cannon fodder (contestant who ends up with nothing).

        By canceling the prize,

      • Sure it's a race, but it's not much of one.

        And if either of them 'won', then humanity wins. What's the overhead in running the contest? This makes no sense based on the given excuses.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          The expectation is that one or both will "win" without the prize, so re-allocation of the prize money will benefit the world better than continuing this particular contest.
  • Genomics is an incredibly well funded field. This is not like rocketry where the core technology is only used by a few big contractors and government agencies. There are hundreds of very competent small contract research organizations in the US competing for business.

    Looking just at the "non-traditional cutting edge hardware" part of genetics, DARPA has a $50M+ program, Living Foundries, that many of the people mentioned in the X-Prize have won grants under.

    When you have a situation where even fringe idea

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