CARLSBAD, Calif., April 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ: LIFE) today opens registration to the Life Grand Challenges, a first-of-its-kind crowd-sourcing competition that calls for innovative ideas and techniques from the science community to double the company's current performance baseline for scalability, speed and accuracy on the Ion Personal Genome Machine (PGM™).
The current contest focuses on the first three of seven Challenges, each with a $1 million prize, which Life Technologies announced in conjunction with the PGM launch -- the first sequencer based on semiconductor technology that enables chemical signals to be directly translated into digital information. Its affordability, ease of use and speed (sequencing is completed in about two hours), positions the desktop instrument to lead the democratization of sequencing.
The PGM-focused competitions are divided into three Challenge categories: Scalability, Speed and Accuracy, each intended to expedite advancement in science and technology by leveraging the collective talents from the world's brightest molecular biologists and computer programmers to help solve specific tasks.
"Crowd sourcing is an ideal way to tap the skills of the brightest scientists from around the world to help expedite semiconductor sequencing technology," said Ion Torrent Founder and President Jonathan Rothberg. "Alone, we cannot efficiently pursue hundreds of different ways to push the envelope of scalability, speed or accuracy, but the global scientific and software community can. If the winners can double our current performance, it will ultimately benefit research."
The Scalability Challenge requires a two-fold increase in the number of DNA bases from an Ion semiconductor sequencing chip, while the Speed Challenge calls for competitors to halve Life Technologies' sample-prep protocol. The Accuracy Challenge is unique in that it is purely a software challenge, requiring computer programmers to develop the most efficient algorithm that can double the company's per-base accuracy rates. Life Technologies' published performance specifications for all three Challenges are available to solvers upon registering.
To participate, solvers must first register online after which they can then review the full terms and conditions and learn how to submit their protocols demonstrating at least a two-fold improvement over Life Technologies' performance baselines for the category they enter. Submissions will be received by InnoCentive, a neutral party that will evaluate the validity of all entries and make recommendations to Life Technologies.
The competitions will take place in a series of quarterly Challenge windows with published protocols and metrics that represent Life Technologies' current best baselines. At the end of the quarterly period, solvers with potential two-fold improvements will be invited to a Grand Challenge Event (GCE) where they will be required to demonstrate their respective solutions in a live setting. The first GCE is scheduled for mid July 2011. In the absence of a winning solution, Life Technologies will publish new performance specifications and a new quarterly Challenge window will begin.
Judges for the first three Life Grand Challenges include: Dr. Sidney Altman, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Professor Sir Aaron Klug, who received the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; and Dr. Michael Waterman, co-developer of the Smith-Waterman alignment algorithm.
To support these crowd-sourcing activities on the Ion Torrent platform, Life Technologies has created Ion Community – a site where Ion PGM Sequencer users and software developers can network, post semiconductor sequencing-related questions and find information on protocols, technical documentation, file formats and sample data. Regular updates can also be found on the Life Grand Challenges Twitter page: @Grand_Challenge.
"Our crowd-sourcing approach to these challenges creates an international think tank of sorts that helps push research forward faster," said Gregory T. Lucier, Chairman and CEO of Life Technologies. "While it also provides an opportunity for the winners to be recognized for their invaluable contributions, the Life Grand Challenges ultimately benefit science and the research community's better understanding of human health and disease."
About Life Technologies (www.lifetechnologies.com)
Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ: LIFE) is a global biotechnology company dedicated to improving the human condition. Our systems, consumables and services enable researchers to accelerate scientific and medical advancements that make life even better. Life Technologies customers do their work across the biological spectrum, working to advance the fields of discovery and translational research, molecular medicine, stem cell-based therapies, food safety and animal health, and 21st century forensics. The company manufactures both molecular diagnostic and research use only products. Life Technologies' industry-leading brands are found in nearly every life sciences lab in the world and include innovative instrument systems under the Applied Biosystems and Ion Torrent names, as well as, the broadest range of reagents with its Invitrogen, GIBCO, Ambion, Molecular Probes and TaqMan® products. Life Technologies had sales of $3.6 billion in 2010, has a workforce of approximately 11,000 people, has a presence in approximately 160 countries, and possesses one of the largest intellectual property estates in the life sciences industry, with approximately 3,900 patents and exclusive licenses. For more information on how we are making a difference, please visit our website: http://www.lifetechnologies.com.
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