Einstein Researcher Helps Lead Consortium for $10 Million "X PRIZE" to Sequence Genomes of 100 Centenarians

Oct 26, 2011, 13:24 ET from Albert Einstein College of Medicine

BRONX, N.Y., Oct. 26, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nir Barzilai, M.D., director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, will help lead a newly formed centenarian consortium for the Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco. The $10 million incentivized prize competition, which was announced today, challenges teams of scientists and entrepreneurs to sequence the complete genomes of 100 healthy centenarians in 30 days. Intended to help usher in an era of personalized medicine and learn from the genetic advantages of the exceptionally long-lived, the competition tasks teams with delivering medical quality genome sequencing results for $1,000 per centenarian.

As one of the leaders of the centenarian consortium, Dr. Barzilai will help identify and collect the 100 centenarian genomes to be sequenced. Known as the Medco 100 Over 100, the genomes will be donated by 100 vital and independent individuals who are aged 100 or older and have participated in a centenarian study, like Dr. Barzilai's Longevity Genes Project.  One of Dr. Barzilai's participants, 105-year old Irving Kahn – who founded a successful New York City-based value investment firm and still works daily – participated in today's X PRIZE announcement event.

Dr. Barzilai, who has been studying the healthy elderly since 1998, implicated several "longevity genes" in humans.  His research on more than 500 centenarians of Ashkenazi Jewish descent established, among other findings, that the gene variant that leads to high HDL, or "good cholesterol," is linked to healthy aging and extreme longevity.

"Understanding the genetic makeup that protects these healthy centenarians from Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases associated with aging is necessary if we all want to live disease-free into an advanced old age," said Dr. Barzilai, the Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert Chair of Aging Research and director of the NIH-funded Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging at Einstein. "By sequencing the genomes of these healthy centenarians – and making the results available to scientists – this contest will be a powerful tool in helping us decode the genetic underpinnings of healthy aging and develop drugs that can mimic the protections these individuals have."

"The assistance of Dr. Barzilai and the other centenarian consortium members have been critical for creating this contest," said Grant Campany, senior director of the AGXP.  "Without them we would not have the genomic material for this invaluable research that may bring us one step closer to realizing the promise of personalized medicine."

The 30-day Archon Genomics X PRIZE competition begins on Thursday, January 3, 2013; winners will be announced that spring.

About Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University is one of the nation's premier centers for research, medical education and clinical investigation. During the 2010-2011 academic year, Einstein is home to 724 M.D. students, 256 Ph.D. students, 122 students in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program, and 375 postdoctoral research fellows. The College of Medicine has 2,770 full time faculty members located on the main campus and at its clinical affiliates. In 2010, Einstein received nearly $200 million in support from the NIH. This includes the funding of major research centers at Einstein in diabetes, cancer, liver disease, and AIDS. Other areas where the College of Medicine is concentrating its efforts include developmental brain research, neuroscience, cardiac disease, and initiatives to reduce and eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities. Through its extensive affiliation network involving five medical centers in the Bronx, Manhattan and Long Island – which includes Montefiore Medical Center , The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Einstein – the College of Medicine runs one of the largest post-graduate medical training programs in the United States, offering approximately 150 residency programs to more than 2,500 physicians in training. For more information, please visit www.einstein.yu.edu.

SOURCE Albert Einstein College of Medicine



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