SOURCE: X PRIZE Foundation

X PRIZE Foundation

October 26, 2011 10:10 ET

$10 Million Archon Genomics X PRIZE to Sequence 100 Centenarians' DNA and Announces Medco as Presenting Sponsor

Unprecedented Competition to Sequence 100 Centenarians Will Help Usher In a New Era of Personalized Medicine by Defining a "Medical Grade" Genome

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Oct 26, 2011) - The X PRIZE Foundation today announced a number of major changes to its Archon Genomics X PRIZE, the $10 million competition designed to drive breakthroughs in the future of predictive and personalized medicine to make significant advances in human genome sequencing. Medco Health Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MHS), a leading pharmacy benefit manager, has joined as the competition's Presenting Sponsor. The X PRIZE Foundation and Medco stated the competing teams will sequence 100 genomes of centenarians.

This competition, whose purse and partial operations are underwritten by a generous grant from Dr. Stewart and Marilyn Blusson, will now be renamed the Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco®.

Through advanced competition guidelines, the Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco will measure teams on accuracy, cost, speed and completeness of genome sequencing. The competition's audacious target criteria for accuracy and completeness of sequencing will define for the first time a "medical grade" genome.

"The goal of this competition is to push the industry to develop more accurate, faster and more cost effective sequencing technologies," said Dr. Craig Venter, PhD, Co-Chair of the competition. "While many new technologies have been developed over the last decade and many human genomes have been sequenced, there is still no technology that can produce a highly accurate, reproducible human genome usable for diagnostics and medical treatment. For genomics to truly impact health and diagnostic decisions for all of us, we need these technologies. We believe this competition will be the impetus to truly usher in the era of personalized medicine."

The $10 million prize purse will be given to the first team that accurately sequences the whole genome of 100 subjects within 30 days for $1,000 or less per genome, at an error rate no greater than one per million base pairs. Ultimately, the competition looks to usher in a new era of personalized medicine through sequencing the whole human genome -- the more than six billion pairs of nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, the genetic material contained in each human cell -- to a level of fidelity never before measured.

To make the competition scientifically valuable and more meaningful to the general public, every team will be given the DNA of 100 centenarians to sequence. These 100 genomic pioneers, who represent a unique population of individuals who have survived their first 100 years of life, will be hereafter known as the "Medco 100 Over 100" and will have donated their genome to this competition in order to further medical science.

The announcement at the historic New York Academy of Medicine included Robert K. Weiss, Vice Chairman & President of the X PRIZE Foundation; Dr. J. Craig Venter, Founder and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute; Dr. Felix Frueh, President of the Medco Research Institute®; Grant Campany, Senior Director of the Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco; and George Eberhardt, centenarian and genomic pioneer. Via recorded statements, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Eric Green, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; Dr. Richard Hodes, Director of the National Institute of Aging; James Appleby, Executive Director of the Gerontological Society of America; and Sharon Terry, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Genetic Alliance, offered support for the competition. Broadcast news veteran, Miles O'Brien, served as the Master of Ceremonies.

"We are proud to have Medco as a partner for this important competition. Medco's vision for improved personalized medicine is directly aligned with the ultimate impact of the competition," said Weiss. "Eleven years ago, Dr. Venter sequenced the first draft of the human genome. Today, the industry is still without a cost effective, rapidly producible standard. Sequencing the genomes from 100 centenarians -- the equivalent of 10,000+ years of life -- is an exciting prospect that will advance medical research. The results will likely be the most accurately and completely sequenced set of human genomes ever assembled, empowering scientists around the world to conduct powerful bioinformatics research that can help unlock the secrets of healthy aging."

"Partnering with the X PRIZE Foundation on this competition extends Medco's ongoing and passionate commitment to innovations that can improve health and lower health care costs," said Dr. Frueh. "We have been at the forefront in research and programs that help to make medicine safer and more effective through genetic testing. We believe that the Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco is the game changer that's needed to reach that final mile and transform the full promise of genomic research into practical clinical care."

Upon completion of the competition, the X PRIZE Foundation will compile a public database of the DNA sequences and cell lines from the Medco 100 Over 100 genomes, giving researchers and scientists from around the world open access to this incredibly rich data. The knowledge gained by compiling and comparing this library will further our understanding of health and longevity. Decoding the secrets to a long and healthy life may lead to radical medical breakthroughs that will benefit us all.

"This competition brings us one step closer to realizing the promise of truly personalized medicine," commented Thomas Perls, MD, MPH, Director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine and Geriatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. "With the selection of centenarians as the genomic pioneers, this competition emphasizes the tremendous opportunity to discover 'wellness' genes and therefore learn how to prevent disease and live a long, healthy life."

For more information about the Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco, visit:

Supporting Organizations
J. Craig Venter Institute; Albert Einstein College of Medicine; The Gerontological Society of America; The Genetic Alliance; Coriell Institute for Medical Research; Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center's New England Centenarian Study; The U.S. Food and Drug Administration; National Institute of Aging; National Human Genome Research Institute; Human Genome Organization; Personalized Medicine Coalition; and the journal, Nature Genetics.

About the Competition's Benefactors - Dr. Stewart and Marilyn Blusson
Dr. Stewart Blusson and his wife Marilyn share an enthusiasm for the wilderness and the stimulation of discovery, and together they explore broad horizons. In 1981, he left the Geological Survey to explore the modes of formation of mineral deposits from Mexico to the Arctic, piloting his own plane and helicopter over vast areas. He discovered a number of important occurrences of gold, copper and other metals in Canada and the US; most recently a diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe in the Northwest Territories was discovered in 1991. Dr. Blusson continues to conduct arduous scientific fieldwork in the mountains of northern and western Canada and in the Canadian Shield. Energetic, determined and innovative, he quietly pursues dreams of new discoveries.

About X PRIZE Foundation
Founded in 1995, the X PRIZE Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization solving the world's Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself. The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity. The X PRIZE Foundation conducts competitions in four Prize Groups: Education & Global Development; Energy & Environment; Life Sciences; and Exploration. Prizes won include the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private, suborbital space flight; the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE for creating safe, affordable, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG energy equivalent (MPGe); the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE for advanced rocket development; and the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE for highly effective ocean oil spill cleanup methods. Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE and the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco. For more information, go to

About Medco Health Solutions
Medco Health Solutions (NYSE: MHS) is pioneering the world's most advanced pharmacy® and its clinical research and innovations are part of Medco making medicine smarter™ for more than 65 million members. With more than 20,000 employees dedicated to improving patient health and reducing costs for a wide range of public and private sector clients, and 2010 revenues of $66 billion, Medco ranks 34th on the Fortune 500 list and is named among the world's most innovative, most admired and most trustworthy companies. For more information, go to