Today Macrogen the leading Korean biotech company announced it’s working on a blockchain for genomic data. In June the company started working with Bigster, a local big data company.
In the past, the biotech company was the first to sequence a Korean genome fully. Macrogen highlighted the benefits of genomic analysis. It can help to predict or diagnose illnesses, and enable personalized treatment or even preventative care.
Personal DNA tests have become popular. This year it’s estimated that 17 million people will buy personal tests. That’s more than four times the 2016 figure. On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies are keen to use the data for research into drugs and therapies.
Macrogen acknowledges the need for extra care given the sensitive nature of the data. They plan to take particular steps with sharing and using the data, and to use cryptographic and other measures to safeguard the data against hacking.
The company recognizes that a public blockchain is inappropriate for storing the data for privacy reasons. Instead, they plan to create a consortium network or a permissioned blockchain. Hence they can grant access where appropriate to pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, hospitals, and genome analysis companies.
The blockchain will be based on multiple blockchains owned by Macrogen and will use patents that they’ve registered.
Macrogen said, “Despite the fact that genomic data is widely used, it has not been easy to distribute and utilize it because of the problem of personal information protection solution. We expect to create an ecosystem that can freely distribute healthcare data.”
On the company’s website, it states: “Macrogen Genome Institute will contribute to the realization of precision medicine targeting Asians and Koreans, using the gene variation DB obtained from the large-scale genome analysis.”
Today’s announcement comes two weeks after US-based DNA company 23andme announced a controversial data-sharing deal with Glaxo SmithKline. Several startups are already working on genomic data blockchains.