Empowering Medical Advancements in Genomics with Blockchain Technology

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Written by
Shivani Tripathi
Published on
January 25, 2023

Medical advancements with genomic data have been increasing lately following amplified studies on clinical exome sequencing. With streamlined genomic data sharing, medical practitioners are focusing on bringing in more personalized health treatments for every individual.

The global sequencing market was incepted in the late 2000s. With more than a decade of research and experimentation, the genomic field is expected to grow rapidly with the help of technologies like blockchain, big data, AI, etc.

Global News Wire states that the global sequencing market, which was valued at $5.1 billion in 2021, is expected to reach $28.89 billion by 2028.

Blockchain technology, which is already making several changes in the medical and research field, is expected to serve as a revolutionizing environment to advance the genomic market.

As the blockchain infrastructure enhances genomic data security, which induces genomic data sharing, the immutability of genomic data Is maintained.

What is Genomics?

The study of genomics pertains to learning about individual genes, their DNA data sets, and how they behave under certain conditions.

It is a study and practice that brings diverse results for every individual. With more advancements brought in, the genomic field aims to study, cure, or incite DNA data to perform a certain way.

Though individuals of a family may have similar DNA structure, how they react toward certain external conditions are peculiar to every individual. This has encouraged countries like the US, Japan, Australia, and Saudi Arabia to work more on genomic studies.

Mark Gerstein, a Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, stated that genomics is an important method for studying and understanding an individual’s health.

In his words, "As genomic data becomes increasingly integral to our understanding of human health and disease, its integrity and security must be a priority when providing solutions to storage and analysis."

Difference Between Genetics and Genomics

Genetics and Genomics
  • Genetics studies hereditary DNAs, while genomics researches the individual DNA’s data set and analysis how they behave.
  • Few genetics-related tests like BRCA1 and BRCA2 may enable individuals to predict how prone they are to certain hereditary diseases, while genomic tests like Oncotyle DX may help understand and predict the level of intensity the disease can have on one's body and how it shall react to external treatments.

Blockchain Helping Us Control Our Genetic Data

Over the years, blockchain technology has been aiding the health sector in various ways. Blockchain for Genomics is also creating efficient environments and processes for researchers to benefit from. Some of the properties that the genomic industry is benefitted from blockchain are as follows.

1. Genomic Data Sharing

Since this genomic practice is in its early stages, it is not available all across the world. Due to this, many treatments have become complex because of data unavailability. However, when genomic data are stored in the blockchain, it makes it easy for all researchers across the world to refer to the data.

As a result, it addresses the problem of a lack of specialist researchers connecting to those in the US or Japan to quickly access medical data from any Asian or American countries.

2. Genomic Data Security

Securing these genomic data sets is crucial as they involve the private medical records of individuals.

Blockchain helps researchers use cryptographic encoding mechanisms to secure genomic data. The data are now entered into the block with a timestamp to be secured, ensuring ownership and privacy for the individual while initiating the genomic data-sharing processes.

3. Efficiency

Many health blockchains use the proof-of-concept consensus to attain an accurate solution as it studies the potential risk and certainty of the genomic solutions. Thus, building a detailed solution architecture through the genomic data and EHR details is made possible.

4. Immutability of Genomic Data at a Lower Cost

As any modification in the health data may result in a misdiagnosis, researchers and individuals can be assured about the immutability of genomic data, as no intermediary can tamper with these genomic data via blockchain.

Additionally, as the security, scalability, and interoperability of genomic data are brought under decentralized ledgers, moving the data becomes easy, making it less expensive than centralized systems.

Companies that Are Helping Achieve the Vision

Healthcare-based start-ups benefit significantly from blockchain technology. A few start-ups have also started to aid the genomic industry to help keep their data secure and access them as needed. Some start-ups that use blockchain in genomics infusion are as follows:

  1. DNAtrix - DNAtrix, founded in 2005, is working on bringing a revolutionary cure to cancer by inducing engineered versions of the Adenovirus. It initiated interactions with blockchain in 2018 as it used IBM blockchain to transfer a complete dataset of the Y chromosome of the known human genome by Craig Venter.
  2. Nebula Genomics - The company is focused on providing privacy-focused personal genome services. An individual can register their DNA on the blockchain and use multiple services. Some of their services include finding your ancestors, identifying individual appropriate diet and supplement plans, the possibility of mutations within the gene, and more. Thus, any genome Q&As can be resolved through the platform.

Wrapping Up

As medical treatments and research are advancing quickly, blockchain technology acts as a perfect structure to induce security features and protect medical data.

The usage of blockchain in the genomic field standardizes the super-advanced medical field at a reasonable cost for people across the world while also guaranteeing the security of the data.

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