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Genetic Research Competition Offers Big Money for Innovation


Aviation incentive competitions helped spur research and today's $300 billion commercial aviation industry. Now, the race is on to reinvigorate genetic research in the same way. Paul Sisco has more on some interesting developments in genomic science.

Charles Lindbergh received the Orteig prize in 1927 for being the first to fly non-stop from New York to Paris. Two years ago it was Space Ship One. On October 4, 2004, the X-Prize Foundation awarded $10 million to aviator Burt Rutan and financier Paul Allen. They led the first team to build and launch a spacecraft that could take three people to 100 kilometers above the Earth and back, twice in two weeks.

Now it is genetic science. This month, the X-Prize Foundation offered a $10 million prize for genomics. The goal -- to create technology that can successfully map 100 human genomes in 10 days.

The nearly completed atlas of the human genome was announced in 2003. Last month, the Allen Institute of Brain Science produced a genetic map of the mouse brain.

Allan Jones is a research scientist and co-founder Microsoft’s Institute for the Brain says the project talked about the design. "The Human Genome Project really was a project to describe the genome and how many genes are in the genome," said Jones. "It's the what. The Allen Brain Atlas project is the where. It is taking those genes and telling us where they are turned on in the brain."

Dr. Francis Collins, who directed the Human Genome Project, added that the project is ambitious. "Problems that you wouldn't have dared to try to tackle because they were too hard are now imaginable, and in fact quite realistic for a small laboratory to undertake," said Collins.

The new Archon X prize is the largest medical prize in history, and it is aimed at stimulating new research in the medical sciences, particularly genetic science, and ushering in a new era of personalized preventive medicine.