After Conquering Space, X-Prize Group To Reward Inner Exploration

from the the-next-fronteir dept

As we discussed last week when excerpting Andy Kessler’s new book The End of Medicine, as diagnostic tools to help prevent disease becomes more available, the cost of healthcare could decline dramatically. As it stands currently, it still makes more business sense for insurance companies to fund treatment than to fund screening. Now, the same foundation that funded the X-Prize for private space travel will announce a $10 million prize for any group that can develop an affordable method of DNA sequencing (via Hit & Run). In theory, this will pave the way to new preventative diagnostic testing. The use of prizes to spur innovation has continued to gain momentum, but unlike research in manned rocket ships, there’s already been tons of private and academic funding in the area of genomics. It’s not clear that this is an area that needs much financial incentive, but it’s good that the group identified the need for cheaper diagnostic testing as a critical component of advancing this field. Furthermore, if the contest does result in a major breakthrough, it’ll be a real vindication of the prize model for advancing research.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “After Conquering Space, X-Prize Group To Reward Inner Exploration”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
dorpus says:

Economic Ignorance

Insurance companies profit from better health among their patients. Treatments cost them money.

DNA sequencing remains largely useless in a clinical context, due to the 1. lack of reproducibility — the tests give garbage results and 2. lack of strong statistical associations between DNA sequence and many diseases.

It hasn’t prevented a lot of scammy “biotech companies” from selling randomly generated DNA sequences to customers, and ignorant techies from applauding the “revolution in health care”.

Jo Mamma says:

I agree with your analysis, but I think you missed

I think you may also be missing a very important factor in the X-prize strategy — that is promotion.

I agree that this area already has tons of financial incentives (and the X-prize may have no benefit based on that), but if you get enough promotion behind something, and convince smart people to work on a problem… perhaps that’s a key to success?

Kind of a long-shot, I’ll admit, but it’s definitely part of their model.

Mike Mixer (profile) says:

Sorting out the gene pool

The problem with finally nailing down the markers for all disease processes isn’t time or money, It’s rampant sentimentalism that seems to infect even the clearest thinkers in the human race. Nobody would ever be allowed to use this information effectively because as soon as someone starts acting on the information(ie. aborting defective fetuses) a lynch mob will carry them
away to a handy oak tree and do what lynch mobs do best. Of course, the way the country is turning into a religious nut-bag ruled tyranny it would more likely be government troops doing the hanging.

dorpus says:

Re: Sorting out the gene pool

Fetuses are already being screened for stuff like Down’s syndrome or galactosemia, where the results are black or white. The future will see a growth in grey-area issues, where fetuses will be screened for genes that raise the risk by a moderate amount, but no clear answer will be possible. The definition of “at-risk” genotypes could be wrong, too, and change over time.

As for our economics student, there are a lot of “biotech” companies out there, including Perlegen, that do not deserve to be called anything more than scams. The understanding of the variation in the human genome remains quite primitive — the scientific literature at present has a Wild West mentality, where researchers claim to have discovered a gene for XYZ, but followup research does not replicate the results. Perlegen et al is basing its “science” on this sort of scientific literature.

Gregory Bloom says:

Unintended effects

Being able to affordably sequence any genome will give rise to a new form of eugenics. Not by aborting “defective” fetuses, but by shotgun in-vitro fertilization of many ova, and cherry-picking the best one for implantation. Since raising children is such a huge investment, many people would probably prefer to spend a few thousand up front to assure having a child that is a couple of standard deviations “better” than “average”.

One other unintended consequence will likely be socialized medicine. With a new-found ability to estimate actuarial risk, insurance companies will be in a tight spot – the ability is so compelling, yet there are already laws forbidding genetic discrimination. The obvious solution that enables making full use of genomic risk assessment while preventing genetic discrimination is to put everyone under the same medical risk management umbrella.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...