Life Technologies funds seven $1 million medical innovation prizes

On December 14, 2010, Life Technologies Corporation, which among other things owns Ion Torrent, which sells the Ion Personal Genome Machine sequencer, announced seven new medical innovation prizes. The first three prizes are related to improvements in the Ion semiconcudtor sequencing products. Each of the three sequencer prizes is funded at $1 million, and will be awarded to contestants that can achieve the following goals:

  1. produce twice as much sequence data,
  2. do it twice as fast, and
  3. do it with twice the accuracy.

In addition, Life Technologies says it will fund four additional $1 million prizes relating to their products, to be announced later this year. The Life Technology prizes seem to be inspired by the $1 million Netflix prize, or the $10 million prize to enhance yields from the Barrack silver mine in Argentina. More on the challenges from Life Technologies here. More on innovation prizes here.

The following is from the December 14, 2010 press release.

Life Grand Challenges Contest

Life Technologies also announced a first-of-its-kind crowd sourcing initiative in the life sciences tools and technology industry, called the Life Grand Challenges Contest. The goal of the $7 million competition is to unlock even bigger opportunities the company is witnessing, while accelerating innovation within the life science community.

There will be seven individual challenges, each with a $1 million prize. The first three challenges are focused on Ion semiconductor sequencing. The remaining four challenges will be related to Life Technologies products and will be announced later in 2011. The three Ion challenges are to 1) produce twice as much sequence data, 2) do it twice as fast, and 3) do it 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.

Life Technologies has a legacy of democratizing new technologies, and the speed and low cost of semiconductor-based technology will bring DNA sequencing into new areas we can’t even imagine, said Gregory T. Lucier, Chairman and CEO of Life Technologies.

“While we are on track with our internal research and development, The Grand Challenges are intended to incentivize the user communities that inevitably grow around open technology and encourage them to help accelerate discovery even further. With its ease-of-use and scalability, the Ion semiconductor sequencing technology is the natural place to start.”

The judges for the first three Grand Challenges include Dr. Rothberg, Dr. Sidney Altman, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Professor Sir Aaron Klug, who won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Additional information about the first three Grand Challenges, including terms and conditions, will be released early in 2011. By registering your email address at, you will be sent the most up-to-date information on the contest when available. You can also join the conversation about the contest on Twitter: @Grand_Challenge

Additional news reports about the prize:

Articles about the Ion sequencer:

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