Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fabulous Games and Prizes - in the lab.

I'm sure many readers are aware of the X Prize for various goals reached in commercializing the space race, as illustrated by the landmark (spacemark?) achievement by SpaceShipOne in 2004. But did you know there are X Prizes for cell crushers too?

There's another cool 10 million bucks out there for the ability to cut the cost of genomic sequencing into the affordable range, that is, to sequence one person's entire genome for less than a thousand dollars.

There appears to be several groups that are going to make this a photo finish.

The possibilities of such a cheap and afforable technology are staggering, as one's genome would become core information in medical files, allowing treatments and therapies to be targeted with greater precision.

I recall in 1994 as a college freshman I went to a seminar with a representative of the Human Genome Project, then working on merely sequencing a composite of the complete genome. I was told of the industrious effort being put into this project, a thousand computers crunching millions of numbers non-stop with a target of around 2006. Not only did the HGP beat that goal by a long shot, they were almost usurped by a private company! The merger into the HGP is its own sordid story, alas. Never the less, the acceleration curve of our technology is staggering sometimes.

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