DISTRIBUTED: How Blockchain Technology Is Disrupting the Genomics Industry
By Greg Thompson
Of all the arenas where data protection is critical, none could be more personal than the genomics industry. As such, it’s certainly a field that could benefit from the immutable and transparent advantages of blockchains.
During the last 12 months, one of the biggest concerns that the government has been trying to address has been data privacy.
And while privacy concerns on social media channels is troubling, it would pale in comparison to security breaches when it comes to the data that is more personal than any other: the human genome. 60 Minutes recently ran a story about how authorities used genetic genealogy to solve a 40-year-old cold case and catch the Golden State Killer. While much of the segment was about the methods employed to track the killer, one issue that was debated revolved around the private nature of DNA uploads in public databases.
Blockchain technology could allow companies to safeguard personal information by de-identifying raw DNA data files. This could include stripping away information such as names, contact information and other sensitive information, rendering the DNA data files completely anonymous. Consumers could then feel confident about sequencing their genome, uploading the data files to a blockchain platform, selling that data at the time and to whom they choose and profiting in the process.
The question is when this technology will be available. While this space is still in its infancy, there are several options that are already available or will be soon.
One company that appears to offer a promising solution in the space is EncrypGen (DNA). In November, EncrypGen launched its Gene-Chain platform, making it the world’s first fully functional blockchain genomic data marketplace. Consumers who have had their DNA tested can upload the data files to Gene-Chain. Platform users will be able to set a price for their data and then wait for interested researchers to purchase that data. Gene-Chain appears to offer a lot of promise for the complex issue of genomic data privacy and monetization.
While EncrypGen is the first to market, it certainly won’t be the only option available for consumers…
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