Controversial Pentagon DNA Analysis Contest Names Champion

first_imgA DNA analysis challenge posed by the U.S. Department of Defense proved more difficult than many contestants expected, but a winner has emerged. The agency announced this week that Team Huson—a latecomer to the competition that became an immediate front-runner—will take the $1 million prize for their speedy DNA analysis computer program. Earlier this year, the design and scoring of the contest drew heavy criticism from some top contenders after just three of 103 entrants made it into the final round.One of those finalists, Daniel Huson, a bioinformaticist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, says that he and his teammates “had a pretty good feeling” they might take the top prize. They were thrilled to discover earlier this month that their intuition was sound.The contest, officially known as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA’s) Algorithm Challenge, sought a better way to identify organisms and genes in a DNA sample to identify possible bioterror threats. The challenge was open to anyone, and participants submitted their work using the online contest host InnoCentive. Huson says that he relished the frantic, round-the-clock work needed to win: “The only other time I ever had this much fun was when I was working on the human genome at Celera genomics.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)To qualify for the evaluation round, participants needed to earn a passing accuracy score on nine sets of genetic data. Several expressed frustration over DTRA’s opaque scoring algorithm and felt they had to reverse-engineer their programs to satisfy a set of unclear requirements.The task proved so challenging that DTRA had to extend the deadline and relax the requirements. That’s when Huson and two colleagues—bioinformaticist Xie Chao of the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering and Benjamin Buchfink, a computer science graduate student at the University of Tübingen—teamed up and entered the game.“The scoring scheme was delicate,” Huson admits. “There were things that did raise some eyebrows.” But he says his team was able to make steady progress by trying many alternate approaches.Christian Whitchurch, the project manager, told ScienceInsider in July that a full report on the contest design and scoring would be released once the challenge was over.last_img

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