Two years ago, Burt Rutan's SpaceShip One won the Ansari X Prize for spaceflight. Now the X Prize Foundation plans to announce a $10 million Genomics Prize for the first team to develop a technology that transforms sequencing a person's genome into essentially a diagnostic test. The goal is to hasten the advent of the era of personalized medicine in which treatments can be targeted to patients more precisely based on their specific genes.
The notion of prizes to encourage competitive and entrepreneurial scientific endeavors is a good idea. Robert Zubrin has suggested a $30 billion Mars prize and there is the Methuselah Mouse Prize (more than $3.5 million pledged so far) for trying to create "immortal" rodents. (OK, not immortal, but much longer-lived mice with the goal of inspiring anti-aging research to benefit people.)