Is genomics revolution all fun and games? How blockchain can calm data security nerves!

Have you had your genome sequenced? If you asked this question a few years ago, people would have thought you were crazy. However, today, genetic tests are up for sale in supermarkets! Fifteen years ago, the first ever Human Genome Project was carried out, which took more than 13 years to complete. This (Human Genome Project) costed more than USD 3 billion and required joint efforts of hundreds of scientists across the globe. The completion of the project offered brilliant insights into the entire structure of the genome; including its length, sequences, protein-coding genes, structural variants and a large number of repeats and noncoding sequences which were originally believed to be ‘junk DN

Genome Sequencing

Thanks to the advent of advanced NGS technologies in the past decade, it now costs under USD 1,000 and takes less than a week for an individual to have his or her genome sequenced. What’s more? They can even order a test online themselves. Today, researchers are talking about sequencing the genomes of a million people on the planet. The rate of progress in genomics development resembles that of Moore’s Law in processor development – but it is just the beginning. With plethora of molecular level personalized data available in the hands of research groups, molecular-diagnostics companies are uniquely positioned to unravel value. However, the entire spectrum of value can only be unlocked, if appropriate data integration and analytics capabilities are possessed by stakeholders. These include capabilities that link genetic data with other health indicators, such as medical records and even non-medical information. As the volume of data magnifies with time, and the level of analysis becomes increasingly sophisticated, both start-ups and established technology players with core competencies in advanced analytics are anticipated to venture into the genomics space. Companies such as Emerge and Ignite have already begun using genomic data linked to EMR for personalized medicine.

However, before genomic data can be utilized to its full-blown potential, additional questions regarding data privacy and security need to be answered.

Who can have access to this enormous amount of data and how do research groups, companies and government bodies ensure that genomic data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands?

World’s leading consumer genetics and research companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com have come under the scrutiny of Federal Trade Commission, which has a page dedicated to listing all the risks associated with sending one’s genomic data to companies like 23andMe.

In this scenario, blockchain technology has emerged as a plausible saviour for pharma’s woes. In November 2018, Encrypgen launched the world’s first genomic data marketplace, called the Gene-Chain, a cryptographically encoded ledger used to the searching, storing, buying and selling of genomic data. It is a private network, implying that users must join the community to participate. This helps in preserving the anonymity of users, create abstraction between users and their data for privacy and protection of identity, as well as process the available genetic data files through indexing. Further, blockchain companies are offering tokens, a form of currency for exchange of data in order to incentivize the process, allowing users to have access to their products or services. With the ever-expanding and all-consuming web of hackers across the globe, protecting genomic data is one of the top concerns in the world today. Unlike credit cards and passport numbers hacks, which can be dealt with, genomic data breach is a one strike ballgame.

To get detailed insights about the blockchain in genomic data management, check out the detailed report here. For details on the genome sequencing market, check out the report here.