Blockchain Technology Empowering Genetics

Frost & Sullivan predicts that gene blockchain innovations will become the gold standard of genomic science in the long term, allowing storing and sharing genomic data for health, science and business, and enabling researchers, companies and individuals in their quest for personalized care. Read more about the latest developments.

Blockchain is a digital ledger for assets and other data, with four fundamental characteristics: it is distributed, cryptographically secure, tamper-proof and often open-source. The rise of blockchain benefitted immensely from breakthroughs in cryptography and computing; the tipping point was in 2008 with emergence of Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

Blockchain is the new golden child of health care because of the immense potential that it offers as a shared platform to decentralize health data and ensure access control, authenticity and integrity of protected health information. The growing need to capture, store and manage genomic data for clinical trial management, development of new drugs and therapies, and personalization of care is making genomics an apt application area for blockchain. The health care industry has also benefited from the unique properties of cryptocurrencies for the transaction of data, including the use of unique tokens that allows for transparency, low cost, and micropayments.

The Visionary Innovation business unit of Frost & Sullivan’s Transformation Health practice predicts a potential cost savings of as much as $20 billion by 2025 using blockchain for secure management of universal health care records that include genomic and user-generated data. Frost & Sullivan’s Genetic Technology TechVision Opportunity Engine constantly tracks the latest developments in the explosive field of genetics with an emphasis on technological opportunities. Analysts have identified the following companies as trailblazers in using the power of blockchain to empower genetics.

Encrypgen LLC (Coral Springs, Fla.)

The computer science company’s next-generation blockchain security software protects, shares and remarkets genomic data. Its flagship product, MyGene-Chain, empowers individuals by making them curators of their own genetic data. Users have complete access control to their DNA data uploaded on the blockchain and can share it for scientific research, with the additional opportunity for monetization. The company plans to launch Gene-Chain for professional genomic data users, including pharmaceutical companies, medical centers, academic institutions, research and development centers, and sequencing companies by the end of the year. The new product will be able to manage large volumes of data and provide an opportunity for unlimited publishing and searching of data sets across metadata, indexing, unique variants, qualities and gene types without compromising security.

Encrypgen differentiates itself by not selling data, instead giving users the ability to decide payment for their contribution to advancing science. The use of its cryptocurrency DNA token as a method of data exchange on the platform not only facilitates the trade of data across borders, but also eliminates issues around currency fluctuations. By giving users complete access control to a blockchain-enabled, secure platform that uses cryptocurrency for data monetization, the company is ushering in a new era in genomic data management.

Gene BlockChain LLC (London)

Gene BlockChain LLC is aiming to build the world’s first human genome blockchain by bringing together advanced sequencing technologies, genome cloud analysis platforms and safe encryption systems under the umbrella of blockchain technology. Gene BlockChain develops blockchain smart contract solutions for lab testing, supply chain, ID verification, compliance and traceability. The company is committed to solving the prevalent issue of pricing of genomic data by using smart contracts focused on generating unchallengeable ledgers while monetizing gene data industry-related services and supplies through GeneBTC crypto-tokens.

Gene BlockChain’s core competency is its unique approach to organizing an equal sharing platform for exploration, application and contribution of genomic data. Its cryptocurrency, GeneBTC tokens, helps to overcome issues pertaining to lack of interoperability and standardization, and overpricing. In addition to building a global genome blockchain lab, the company has ambitions to extend the use of its genome database to develop personalized applications for precision medicine, customized lifestyle management, social networking and dating, and personalized leisure and entertainment.

Nebula Genomics (Boston, Mass.)

Harvard Medical School start-up Nebula Genomics focuses on a blockchain-enabled genomic data sharing and analysis platform. The company is working toward democratization of genetic data by allowing individuals and large data providers, such as biobanks, to maintain ownership of their genomic data and benefit financially from it. By using smart contracts to automate data acquisition, the company wants to overcome the challenges that biopharmaceutical companies and research institutions face, such as limited data availability and tedious price negotiations, contract management and payment processes.

Nebula’s ultimate goal is to displace consumer genomic sequencing companies and eliminate intermediaries in the sequencing business by handing over total control of data to the user. With partner Longenesis, it wants to pioneer “life data economics” by unlocking the potential of human data using artificial intelligence and blockchain, and enable seamless data movement, brokering, and usage by leveraging genetic data and electronic health records.

The Road Ahead

The digital and verifiable nature of blockchain will make it one of most disruptive forces advancing genetics in the next decade.

About 1% of the global population has undergone genome sequencing; Frost & Sullivan expects this number to increase to more than 15% by 2025, making genomic data a key contributor to the several zettabytes of data generated by the global Internet of Things. Technology has come a long way since the first genome was sequenced at a cost of almost $3 billion in 2003. Several companies and organizations are striving to make genome sequencing more accessible and affordable at a cost of less than $100.

The top impediments for genome sequencing are the expense and privacy concerns. Frost & Sullivan predicts that gene blockchain innovations will become the gold standard of genomic science in the long term, allowing storing and sharing genomic data for health, science and business, and enabling researchers, companies and individuals in their quest for personalized care. Advancements in cryptocurrency will offer new alternatives to solve issues associated with ownership and utilization rights of genomic data.

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