World over, we are witnessing a number of applications of blockchain in different industries. Right from the financial technology to supply chain and from the automobile to the pharmaceutical industry, blockchain is helping organizations to gain efficiency while reducing the cost and time associated with the processes. The rising awareness about blockchain has also helped the technology to differentiate itself from the cryptocurrency as most of the people used to think both these terms synonymous to each other.
Of late, the use of blockchain has gained traction in the genomics industry as many industry players have started taking interest in technology amidst rising concern about data privacy and safety. Many startups are coming up with a blockchain-enabled system of medication, diagnosis, and information that are helping not only technology to grow but also assure customers about the privacy of data. 23andMe is one of the most prominent names in the industry, and the company is focused on categorization and classifying the genomic data to provide personalized reports to its clients. These reports have all the information about the genetics and ancestry of a particular human being and what kind of potential health risks or benefits a person has borne as a result of his/her ancestral heritage. The company is a well-known name in the industry and had got hefty funding amount in the past, owing to the credibility of the business model.
That said, 23andMe faced criticism from a variety of stakeholders in June last year when the regulatory body Federal Trade Commission announced that it was investigating a slew of data breach cases against a number of players in the genomic industry including 23andMe. The investigation was started to find out how the companies handle data and what kind of security mechanisms they had employed in order to retain the privacy of their clients’ information. The standard operating procedure in the industry entails the customer to sign an agreement with the company that allows it to sell data to other interested parties. This sale of personal data brings a hefty amount of revenue for the organizations while giving nothing in monetary terms to the customers whose data has been sold. Experts believe that this is not only the breach of personal data privacy but also shortchanging the customer in terms of the financial aspect.
Merits of Blockchain
The use of blockchain technology in the industry will help in two ways. First of all, it will enhance the safety and security of data, and there will be less likelihood of data breaches that are potentially one of the biggest threats to the genomics industry. The unauthorized access to the personal data of clients can be effectively reduced with blockchain, and this is the primary reason why companies are eyeing to adopt the blockchain. On a broader scale, however, the blockchain will democratize the access to the data especially for the relevant stakeholders who are unable to use the information to innovate new medicines, therapeutics, and other medical science procedures for the greater good of the community. Blockchain will help to make this data available for such consumptions rather than limiting the access only to the large few companies which are able to the dominant access to information scenario by making hefty payments.