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Centenarian DNA Will Be Used to Unlock Medical Mysteries
posted 09.19.2012

By ASA Staff

Life expectancy has increased for Americans from 49 in 1900 to 78 in 2010, and there are now 53,000 centenarians living among us. September 22 is National Centenarian Day, and ASA salutes these individuals who defy life expectancy projections by 20 years.

More than 60 of these centenarians have so far volunteered to help with the X PRIZE 100 Over 100, a $10 million competition to accurately sequence the whole genome of 100 subjects within 30 days, in a quest to advance research in predictive and personalized medicine.

Centenarians will donate a sample of their DNA, as well as information about lifestyle factors that could contribute to their longevity. The X PRIZE Foundation creates such competitions to stimulate investment in research and development in five groups: education, exploration, energy and environment, global development and life sciences. The Foundation will accept more centenarian volunteers until December 2012. For more information, go to

Each team of contestants will be given DNA of 100 centenarians to sequence—DNA that’s equivalent to 10,000-plus years of life. The teams will then have a month, from September 2013 to October 2013, to sequence the genome.

Underwritten by a grant from Dr. Stewart and Marilyn Blusson, the competition is backed by a long list of heavy hitters, including the X PRIZE Foundation, the Medco Research Institute, the J. Craig Venter Institute, the Gerontological Society of America, the Genetic Alliance, Coriell Institute for Medical Research, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center’s New England Centenarian Study, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Aging, the National Human Genome Research Institute, Human Genome Organization, Personalized Medicine Coalition, Nature Genetics and George Eberhardt, centenarian and genomic pioneer.

“While many new technologies have been developed over the last decade and many human genomes have been sequenced, there is still no technology that can produce a highly accurate, reproducible human genome usable for diagnostics and medical treatment. For genomics to truly impact health and diagnostic decisions for all of us, we need these technologies,” says Dr. Craig Venter, Co-Chair of the competition and the man who 11 years ago sequenced the first draft of the human genome.

When the competition is complete, the X PRIZE Foundation will compile a public database of the DNA sequences and cell lines from the centenarian genomes. That way the information stored there will be available to any researcher or scientist for use in their quest to decode longevity secrets that might lead to more medical breakthroughs.

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