Nobel and other Prizes

2020 Millennium Technology Prize  


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Next-generation DNA sequencing

Mains level: Not Much

The 2020 Millennium Technology Prize has been awarded to Shankar Balasubramanian and David Klenerman, for their development of revolutionary Next-generation DNA sequencing techniques.

About Millennium Technology Prize

  • The Millennium Technology Prize is one of the world’s largest technology prizes.
  • It is awarded once every two years by Technology Academy Finland, an independent fund established by Finnish industry and the Finnish state in partnership.

What is next-generation DNA sequencing?

  • Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a massively parallel sequencing technology that offers ultra-high throughput, scalability, and speed.
  • The technology is used to determine the order of nucleotides in entire genomes or targeted regions of DNA or RNA.
  • These technologies allow for sequencing of DNA and RNA much more quickly and cheaply than the previously used sequencing.
  • NGS has revolutionized the biological sciences, allowing labs to perform a wide variety of applications and study biological systems at a level never before possible.
  • More than a million base pairs can be sequenced, which translates to hundreds of genes or even the whole genome of an organism.
  • This is made possible by simultaneously sequencing hundreds of pieces of DNA at the same time.

What is sequencing, btw?

  • DNA (or RNA, in some viruses), the genetic material of life forms, is made of four bases (A, T, G and C; with U replacing T in the case of RNA).
  • A chromosome is the duplex of a long linear chain of these – and in the DNA sequence is information – the blueprint of life.
  • Life famously can replicate, and DNA replicates when an enzyme, DNA polymerase, synthesises a complementary strand using an existing DNA strand as the template.
  • The breakthrough idea of Balasubramanian and Klenerman was to sequence DNA (or RNA) using this process of strand synthesis.
  • They cleverly modified their ATGC bases so that each shone with a different colour.
  • When copied, the “coloured” copy of DNA could be deciphered from the colours alone, using miniature optical and electronic devices.

What about the cost of all this sequencing?

  • When the Human Genome Project delivered the first, near-complete sequence of our genome, the cost was estimated to have been 3 billion dollars.
  • As all our chromosomes together have 3 billion base pairs, it becomes an easy calculation – One dollar per sequenced base.
  • By the year 2020, NGS technologies has pushed the price for sequencing to a few thousands of rupees.


What is the Human Genome Project?

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