Genomics X-Prize looking for centenarians

[Video Link]

The Archon Genomics X-Prize is offering $10 million to the first research team to sequence the genomes of 100 people who are age 100 or older. The goal: Get a clear view, for the first time, of what makes centenarians different on a genetic level.

That's pretty cool. And will probably be a lost more useful than the usual answer to, "How did you live so long?," which seems to usually involve something about piss, vinegar, and ironically unhealthy lifestyle choices.

But, before the fun can start, the Prize needs to find 100 centenarians willing to donate samples of their DNA to science. That's where you come in. Do you have a friend, grandparent, or great-grandparent who'd be interested in participating in the project? If so, you should nominate them to be one of the "100 Over 100."

This team of genomic pioneers will also have opportunities to document their lives and experiences for the benefit of future generations, through the Life@100 online community. (It's pretty awesome to see a sign-up page with a disclaimer that says you must have been born before January 3, 1913 to join.) The video above comes from the profile 105-year-old investment broker Irving Kahn.

(Thanks, Miles O'Brien!)


  1. Unlike the Ansari X Prize, it seems possible that someone might actually be able to do this at less cost than the prize amount. But – why focus on centenarians? The heritability of longevity isn’t really that high, and you’re probably not going to learn a whole lot from just sequencing a heterogeneous population of old people.

    The point of this prize is to merely scale up the ability to do general high-throughput sequencing of individual genomes – the target isn’t that significant. Centenarians are a relatively morally-neutral choice – everyone wants to live longer, and it’s not as uncomfortable implying a genetic basis to longevity as it is to imply one for, say, intelligence or physical fitness.

  2. “The heritability of longevity isn’t really that high….”

    I’m not active in this field, but the one Gerontology text that I’ve read disagrees with the above statement.

  3. It really does seem that the only way to get anything done in terms of research is to place a large prize at the finish line. (Look what it did for private aerospace). This is a superb project for this!

    The genetic information obtained should provide invaluable material for anti-aging and life extension research.

  4. I don’t know why they don’t just mine the cemeteries.  The genetic history contained within one would be enough fodder for a thousand years of analysis.

  5. The math here doesn’t make sense. At $100,000 a genome, they’re offering way over the odds. I’ve done invertebrate genomes, not human ones – but 30x coverage of a human genome, which would be ample for most purposes, would run much closer to $10,000 than to $100,000. Sure, lining up the tissue donors is a bit of an issue, and the analysis, overhead, and oversight cost money, but I can’t see how it approaches tens of thousands per person.

  6. “Do you have a friend, grandparent, or great-grandparent who’d be interested in participating in the project?”

    >implying there are no centenarians who read BB themselves

  7. Interesting to see his 67 year-old son in the video too.  The guy has grey hair but otherwise he could pass for someone in his mid-40s.

  8. Please someone ask Fauja Singh (the 100 year old who competed and completed the recent Toronto Marathon) for a sample. 

  9. Personally, I’d be more interested in seeing DNA methylation and histone modification profiles than the genome sequence.

  10. Those “ironically unhealthy lifestyle choices” are probably exactly what makes us paleo people so healthy despite going completely against conventional “wisdom”.

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