“Bioinformatics Challenge” relies on NCSA brains and brawn

09.14.12 -

Preparation for the Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Express Scripts® is going public with the global "Bioinformatics Challenge." The Challenge solicits comments on the validation software that will be used to judge the $10 million competition next fall. Teams will compete to sequence 100 human genomes from 100 centenarians in 30 days.

Along with EdgeBio, NCSA is providing brains and computational brawn for the development of the validation software, says Victor Jongeneel, senior research scientist at NCSA and Illinois' Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB).

"We have been actively involved in preparing the software and infrastructure for the public phase, in close collaboration with the folks at EdgeBio," says Jongeneel. "We have also provided resources for EdgeBio to process and analyze the datasets produced for the public phase and to test the bioinformatics software."

Grant Campany, senior director of the project at X PRIZE, says that scientists with expertise in bioinformatics or genomics are the target audience of the Challenge. Access to high-performance sequencing technology is not necessary, he says, since the genomic data necessary to test the software is available as a downloadable file.

"The public phase was created as a means to involve the general scientific community in our project to benefit from [their] collective wisdom... in the improvement of our validation procedure," says Campany.

The prize is $2,500 and each contributor can submit an unlimited number of comments before the Phase I deadline at 5 p.m. PST on November 27. Finalists from Phase I will participate in Phase II, during which the scientific community will vote on who wins the prize.

The overall goal of the competition is to serve as the catalyst for the "world's first 'medical grade' genome" that will help apply genomic research to patient diagnosis and treatment.