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by Michael Scott, Mar 06, 2018

Building the Blockchain of Genetic Data


DNA

Blockchain technology’s vast ocean of potential applications has been well documented.

Now there is word that these digital ledger applications could help spark new advancements in drug development and genetic privacy while allowing consumers to earn some income in the form of cryptocurrency.

Today, more than 10 million people have undergone DNA testing, with 1 billion predicted to do so by 2025. There are a number of emerging trends driving this trajectory:

  • The need on the part of pharmaceutical companies to capture genetic data for the development of new drugs
  • Consumer goods companies and their use of genomics for product personalization
  • The monopolization of genomic databases by large business enterprises, leading to an increase in prices and barriers to scientific progress
  • The use of genomics becoming the main data generator on the internet in the next 10 years

Enter the Zenome project, a blockchain-driven database of genomic information that allows consumers to manage their own genomic data while maintaining privacy and profiting from providing access to research institutions and other bioscience businesses.

In an interview with Distributed.com, Alexey Gorbachev, co-founder of the Zenome Foundation, explored Zenome’s evolution and what it might mean for the future of genomics.

What is Zenome’s value proposition and vision in this space?

ZENOME is a decentralized database owned by the community in which the internal cryptocurrency, the ZNA, incentivizes Zenome’s users to contribute their genomic data by filling out questionnaires with their medical and other personal information.

How did you discover blockchain technology and why is it critical for building this project?

Last year, we made a genetic analysis for a well-known entrepreneur who introduced us to the crypto world and we became excited about the idea of decentralized systems in genomics. We suddenly realized that for personal genomics, blockchain technology is the missing piece of the puzzle for the entire picture. It can provide access to genomic data for a wide range of researchers and create a system for collecting structured personal information.

How does all of this benefit healthcare consumers?

It became evident that there was a need to create decentralized storage for genomic data to enable the free exchange of genomic and personal information between participants. Users have a financial motivation to fill out information about themselves, and companies that buy genomic data have all the necessary instruments to purchase data.

Our platform uses the blockсhain system and the protocol of decentralized hash tables (DHT) to create a distributed database in which the community will download its personal information and receive cryptocurrency as a reward.

What is your long-term vision for Zenome?

Our first stage involves plans to build a decentralized storage system for genomic data. This information will be provided by network participants and supported financially with the help of our internal cryptocurrency. This will then allow us to facilitate the free exchange of genomic and personal data within the network.

By way of example, it will be possible to find a person who has a specific eye color, age, weight, nationality, and get access to his genomic information. Next, we’ll implement a system of questionnaires plus a rating system to ensure that users haven’t given us fake data.

Finally, we plan to attract large companies and scientific centers interested in buying genomic data, as well as purchasing access to Zenome’s storage.

And what do you hope to achieve ultimately?

Ultimately, our goal is to create the best infrastructure project for the genomic internet — a kind of “genomic Google” — owned by the entire community of Zenome.