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Data protection involves many different facets of life. Some examples include credit cards, bank accounts, ID cards, passports, and social media accounts. Unfortunately, the last several years have revealed that many institutions simply don’t have the capability to protect our valuable information from nefarious agents. While financial and identity information is valuable, it doesn’t even compare to the value of material inside all of us: our genomic data. Genomic data needs to be safely guarded at all cost and fortunately, thanks to blockchain technology, a viable option now exists.
Privacy Concerns With Traditional Data Security
Over the last few years, society has been inundated with constant reports of data breaches. The most obvious example is Facebook. Facebook has had several embarrassing incidents during the past few years that include the following:
- Russian election meddling in 2016
- Cambridge Analytica data scandal (Cambridge was working at the behest of Senator Ted Cruz)
- Computer network attack in September exposed the personal data of roughly 50 million Facebook users
And while Facebook has shown a complete inability to protect customer data, they aren’t alone. Equifax, one of the three largest credit agencies in the United States, suffered a data breach in September 2017. The leaked data included highly sensitive information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, driver’s license and passport numbers.
These sorts of data breaches are becoming more and more common with each passing day. This puts consumers in a vulnerable position as the information that is being leaked is extremely personal and valuable. And while having to cancel and replace credit cards is a hassle, what if exposed data couldn’t be replaced? That is the case with our genomic data.
All living things have DNA within their cells and contains all the necessary information necessary to build and maintain an organism. There is nothing more valuable than this, and it requires the highest level of security.
FTC Investigating 23andMe and Ancestry
23andMe and Ancestry are a few of the largest traditional companies involved in genomic sequencing and genealogy. These companies, founded more than a decade ago, have grown to become absolute powerhouses within the industry. Although each company has done a tremendous job of providing people with invaluable access to important information such as where they come from, they are extremely poor in how they handle that sensitive information.
In the summer of 2018, the FTC revealed that it was actively investigating 23andMe and Ancestry.com over their policies for handling personal information and genetic data, and how they share that information with third parties.
Given all the incidents with information not nearly as valuable as our genomic data, how can consumers trust any businesses to protect this highly sensitive data? Well they can, thanks to blockchain technology.
Blockchain technology is being used more and more to solve some of the most complex issues facing businesses. Even though the technology is relatively new, there are several examples of blockchain technology making a positive impact. Within the genomics space, there are several companies attempting to solve the complex problem of securing consumers’ genomic data.
The companies involved in this space include Encrypgen (DNA), Nebula Genomics, LunaDNA, Shivom (OMX), and Zenome (ZNA). All these companies are working on unique solutions to the aforementioned problem. Late last year, Encrypgen launched the world’s first genomic data marketplace Nebula, Luna, Shivom, and Zenome are currently working on an alpha version of their platforms.
Industry Growth Expectation
When trying to identify the next hot market to make an investment, it’s critically important to look at the expected growth. In late October 2017, Research and Markets published a report on the genomics market. Research and Markets is forecasting the global genomics market to grow to approximately $24 billion by the year 2022.
The report indicates that expected growth is driven by “the rise in research activities in the field of genomics; increasing number of start-up companies; growing focus personalized medicine, growing investments, grants, and funds by the government; and increasing application of genomic sequencing in the diagnostics.”
In addition to looking at the overall expected growth of the market, it’s important to look at which segments of the market are expected to achieve the highest growth so that investors can analyze the companies best positioned to profit from that growth. According to the report, the consumables segment is expected to account for the largest share of the global market while the services segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR from 2017 to 2022.
It has become clear that additional innovation is needed to protect valuable data that we all own. While financial and identity documents are extremely valuable, nothing is more precious than what’s inside of us: DNA. Given the problems that traditional companies have faced in the industry, it’s refreshing to see startup companies attempt to harness the power of blockchain technology to securely store our genomic data.
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