Decentralized DNA Storage Mechanism for Healthcare

Harnessing Blockchain Technology to Lay the Foundation for Tomorrow’s DNA Ecosystem.

The flexibility of blockchain infrastructures has captivated innovators, entrepreneurs and developers across a number of verticals (more so than ever in the past year). Many are beginning to truly appreciate the properties that make distributed ledger technologies so valuable, notably where data security is concerned.

Blockchains are perhaps best described, in simple terms, as append-only databases that are controlled by a consensus mechanism made up of numerous participants (without a hierarchy or centralized overseer). Compared to a traditional database, this means that there is no central point of failure for an attacker to target. The participants in question will each maintain a copy of this ledger, synchronizing it with that of their peers when a ‘block’ (chunk of data) is added to the network.

This may not seem particularly exciting at first glance, but it is, in fact, a very powerful tool — each block added to the ledger is cryptographically linked to the prior one, meaning that any attempt to alter the information will be automatically rejected by the rest of the participants. As such, blockchains are often touted as being immutable and tamper-proof.

The security of such networks stems from this structure, the topology at the peer-to-peer level and the use of robust cryptography (private/public keypairs) to ensure that only the individual uploading data can decrypt it or demonstrate ownership.

Towards Medical Applications

Home genetic testing has been garnering a lot of attention from consumers recently as services like Ancestry or 23AndMe have cropped up to provide insights into the health of the user — at the cost, of course, of the sharing of genomic data.

It’s hard to imagine a source of data more personal to an individual than their genetic information. It stands to reason that it’s crucial that said data is kept both secure and private — easier said than done in an age of digitization of information, home DNA testing kits and rampant data breaches.

Most companies go to lengths to anonymized your data before sharing it, and to keep it secure. But sharing this type of sensitive personal information comes with an inherent risk. Consumer genetic testing firms are not typically bound by HIPAA, which means the flow of personal information is completely unregulated. And the more places data flows, the more chances there are for it to leak.

Blockchain technology may initially seem ideally suited to these ends, though it’s just a partial solution — one of the trade-offs of an immutable distributed ledger is that its throughput is somewhat lacking (remember that every participant must record every interaction), and storing even small amounts of data is an expensive and time-consuming task.

Evidently, in designing a platform for mass adoption, a sort of hybridized approach is best. Leveraging the features of blockchain technology and combining it with more scalable storage mediums, vastly superior alternatives to the existing ‘data silo’ phenomenon can be built. With such alternatives, secure repositories of data that are controlled entirely by the individual are anchored in the blockchain, which provides an unalterable record of the interactions occurring across the network.

True Self-Sovereignty

Third-party custodians and data security are not concepts that go hand-in-hand. We’ve seen the catastrophic consequences that breaches like that of Equifax and Facebook can have on the lives of their victims. It’s not something that can be allowed to continue in transitioning masses of genetic information into the digital realm. DNA is not as easily changed as a username/password.

With a tech stack built on top of a blockchain, we can reverse some of the damaging patterns that have emerged as a result of a trust-heavy data ecosystem, putting individuals wholly back in control of information that belongs to them in the first place. Though the concept of an entirely ‘self-sovereign identity’ has existed for a couple of decades now, we’re finally beginning to perfect the technologies that would make truly private and secure interactions in the digital space possible.

Find out more by following us on Twitter:

Recommended

Shivom Announces Token Buyback Plans for 2019

Shivom is pleased to announce its plans to buyback up to 30 million OMX tokens or approximately 5% of current circulating supply in preparation for Shivom’s beta platform release plans in 2019. Beyond simply removing some OMX from current market conditions, Shivom plans to allocate the repurchased OMX tokens exclusively for incentivization early adopters and driving community engagement on the Shivom platform.

According to Shivom CEO Henry Ines, “the buyback program is part of a multi-prong strategy to accelerate growth of the Shivom ecosystem, onboard new users, drive community awareness and engagement and ultimately to further enhance the value of the Shivom platform and the OMX token ecosystem.”

The repurchased tokens will be utilized to provide incentives and benefits particularly to new users, who upload their existing genomic data file on to Shivom’s secure platform and for those who purchase Shivom-branded kits and services in 2019. The buyback program will commence on 01 November 2018 and is expected to conclude by 31 January 2019.

In the interim period, Shivom also plans to release its ‘alpha’ platform on a limited basis for early testing and feedback purposes. The company in parallel also continues to advance its clinical R&D and pilot projects.

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements!

For more information and latest updates please join our Telegram channel here

Recommended

It’s time to take ownership

Blockchain can help you control, protect and share your health data — helping you and others live healthier, longer lives

Exciting advances in precision medicine over the past decade should mean you and your family are now receiving advanced levels of healthcare and disease prevention based on your genetic makeup.

Researchers and health professionals across the world should be enjoying access to a vast resource of genomic sequencing data and health records — helping them discover cures and treatments for every type of disease.

However, the reality is far different.

An ocean of data about your health and the health of others is likely to be spread across many databases. You probably have little ability to view or update this data, let alone control who has access to it.

As for genomic data, only a small percentage of people have had theirs sequenced — largely because there isn’t a secure place to hold and leverage it.

Time to take control

This is a tragedy. You should have the opportunity to own your health and DNA data, and to maintain total control over it. You should have up-to-date information about the diseases you are predisposed to. Every few months, your data dashboard should be updated to inform you of the latest insights scientists have about your DNA.

If you know you’re genetically predisposed to osteoporosis, you should be able to proactively take steps to avoid its onset. If you’re aware there is a high chance of being afflicted by a certain type of cancer, you should be regularly tested to ensure you can catch it early.

Health apps and silos

There are many ongoing initiatives across the globe aiming to facilitate the storage and sharing of genomic data, and thereby enable the progress of precision medicine. Health apps based on genomic and other health data are good examples. But they tend to be competing against each other and creating even more data silos.

Meanwhile, a few large businesses hold the monopoly on most genomic data, and make large profits from selling it to third parties, usually without sharing the earnings with the data donor.

This stifles research and innovation and prevents medicine and healthcare moving forward at the pace it should.

You and your doctors are being denied vital knowledge about your health, and brilliant scientists are being denied access to genomic datasets that could help them gather potentially transformational information that could lead to the eradication of diseases.

Cyber attacks

Not only is your future health being compromised by the current system, but your health data is being left vulnerable too. In the wake of major data breaches like those at Yahoo! and Equifax, it’s hard to trust any organization with sensitive data stored on cloud databases or local servers.

The release on the internet of your data records could have huge implications on your personal relationships, your future employment, your health insurance and your general well being. Cyber criminals know this, so medical data will increasingly be targeted to leverage money from health organizations and patients themselves.

It’s no wonder few people are largely unwilling to map out their DNA and risk this data being spread across the internet.

A blockchain solution

But blockchain-based technology could be the solution everyone is waiting for.

Its distributed ledger technology removes the vulnerabilities associated with cloud databases. This means it would be safe to store even the most sensitive DNA and healthcare data on the blockchain, without fear of it being stolen or misused in a cyber attack.

A centralized health data hub built on the blockchain could let you maintain full ownership of this data, allowing you to share it with health professionals.

Let’s imagine you’re visiting a specialist doctor for a consultation and tests. She would just need a laptop or mobile device to access your health data in the ecosystem — using a private key (in other words a temporary password) supplied by you. At no time would the data be stored in her own computer or cloud database. And she would only have access to your data while you were under her care.

If you wanted to share the data with a research firm, you could give them access to your data in anonymized form for a certain period, and perhaps receive a payment in exchange.

A new ecosystem

Healthcare and wellness providers such as clinics, pharmaceuticals, research organizations, governments, patient-support groups and insurance companies could join an ecosystem built around this blockchain technology.

They would no longer have to compete with each other to gather data. It would be there for them all to use — for example, to boost clinical trials or facilitate drug research and development. This data could be easily sharable and interoperable across technological, geographic, jurisdictional, and professional boundaries.

Sharing data

Such a system could offer patients access to applications that leverage their data and enhance their well being and health — for example, nutritional and fitness advice, treatment plans, genealogy, disease predisposition, and lifestyle management.

Looking into the future, as more personalized biological information becomes available, services could be offered that are based not only on genomic data, but also other health, biological, and environmental information, facilitating new insights into disease processes.

This is an exciting time in healthcare. Soon, you’ll have the power to leverage your DNA and health data to live a longer, healthier life, while helping billions of others on the planet.

All the technologies are in place. The world just needs a suitable health data platform.

About the Author

Dr Axel Schumacher who has over 20 years’ experience in the field of genetics; and is the Chief Scientific Officer of blockchain-enabled genomic data-hub startup Shivom. Shivom’s platform aims to be the largest genomic & healthcare data-hub on the planet, allowing the world’s population to have their genome sequenced and securely stored with the help of blockchain technology.

Recommended