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A $1m Netflix-style Challenge for DNA Sequencing

Life Technologies hopes crowdsourcing will improve its new sequencing technology.
December 14, 2010

Hoping to benefit from some of the same brain power as the computing and information technology industry, Life Technologies’ has announced a $7 million dollar competition to improve its new sequencing technology. The novel device, which officially goes on sale today, reads DNA using semiconductor technology. At $50,000, it costs about a tenth of other sequencing machines (See ‘Democratizing DNA Sequencing’.)

The technology comes from Ion Torrent, a start-up that Life Technologies bought earlier this year for $375 million. At its heart is a semiconductor chip manufactured in the same foundries as computer and cell-phone microprocessors.

According to a release from the company, there will be seven individual challenges, each with a $1 million prize. Only the first three challenges have been announced thus far, and all focus on Ion semiconductor sequencing.

They are to 1) produce twice as much sequence data, 2) to do it twice as fast, and 3) with twice the accuracy. The threshold for winning is to produce results 2x better than the best internal Ion Torrent record at the time of submission.

Additional information about the first three Grand Challenges will be released early in the year and information on the remaining four challenges related to Life Technologies products will be announced later in 2011.

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