Personal Privacy in Precision Medicine: Should We Be Concerned?

July 23, 2018
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Precision medicine has enabled doctors to analyze a person’s genetic evaluation and target treatments based on their needs. It has revolutionized the transformation of the diagnosis and treatment of a genetic disease such as cancer. Among these approaches is the collection of genomic data used for tailoring treatments to an individual’s particular cancer. This genomic era began with the announcement of the Human Genome Project arranged by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy from 1990 to 2003.

In 2016, the now former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden helped launch the Genomic Data Commons, a research project by the National Cancer Institute. It is an open-access database containing the genomic and clinical datas of 12,000 patients for researchers to further understand the disease and later on develop treatments. This approach to personalized or precision medicine has some obvious benefits on the surface–but there is an underlying probability of a privacy breach with this innovation when large samples of human tissue, blood, urine, and saliva are collected and stored in repositories called “biobanks”; where people take part in without full knowledge of how researchers will make use of their genetics for future purposes. In an article published in the The Conversation, the law enforcement, private industry, and insurance companies are among the groups of people who may find somebody’s genomic data useful for their own purposes.

However, “ blockchain ” technologies such as EncrypGen help address the need for more security in genomic data storage. CEO David Koepsell said in an interview, “Blockchains are good at keeping records, making record-keeping transparent, and of course, cryptographically-secured for maximal privacy and anonymity.”

Thus, Proventa International’s 7th Oncology Strategy Meeting is set to explore the realms of oncology including genomic data this 12th of November 2018 at the Westin Boston Waterfront in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here to know more about Proventa’s format that is unlike any other meetings.

Innovations often come with a risk whether they are foreseeable or not. Despite the initial intention of genomic data in the medical world, scientists must still ensure that any person’s residue is getting tamper-proofed by, perhaps, corroborating with blockchains as well so as to guarantee the ethical use of such highly-sensitive data. If it is possible for BitCoins, our genome’s importance should then not be taken trivially.

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By Audrey Mari Vibar
Content Strategist, Proventa International