- Social genome
- Genomics revolution
Remember when personal computers, the Internet, and smartphones didn’t even exist? In reality, that wasn’t so long ago.
Just think for a moment about the scope and pace of the digital revolution.
In the early 1970s, computers were large monoliths that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even the few so-called minicomputers that surfaced had price tags in the tens of thousands. The idea that the average person would own a desktop computer was considered far-fetched.
That’s how powerful scientific and technological innovation, decreasing costs, and consumer adoption can be.
Truly mind-boggling, isn’t it?
Now let’s think about the scope and pace of the genomics revolution.
Think about that. We’re envisioning a giant leap from the sequencing of 1 human genome to the sequencing of 1 million in less than 20 years.
It’s about a steady progression from the Era of the Read-Only Genome—sequencing and reading human genomes to reveal health insights, like disease risk and pharmaceutical sensitivities—to the Era of the Read-Write Genome—editing and synthesizing human genomes to prevent disease.
It’s about a seismic shift from the ‘hoard data and sell to pharma’ approach of some consumer genomics companies to the ‘open science’ approach Veritas supports. Through the latter, information is standardized and federated to enable the true realization of the promise of the genome, while respecting all privacy and security protocols. Already, the scale and speed of that data aggregation is astounding. For instance, data in the Arvados open-source software platform created by Curoverse has tripled in the last year to more than 20 petabytes.
Once again, scientific and technological innovation, decreasing costs, and consumer adoption are driving a revolution of great consequence. And similar to debates about the implications of high-tech developments like AI, the next phase of genomics will inevitably entail controversy and critical questions—presumably some of the most important and difficult debates we’ve ever faced.
(to view larger image, right click and select “open image in new tab”)
We’re coining that next phase the Era of the Social Genome, and we anticipate the turning point to usher it in will be the convergence of a WGS service in the $100-$200 range and consumer adoption reaching 1 million.
But what do we mean by the ‘Era of the Social Genome’?
Let’s start with what we don’t mean. We don’t mean outgoing and gregarious genomes, or ones that become active on Facebook or Twitter.
We’re talking about the ubiquitous integration of your personal genomic information into key aspects of everyday life—healthcare, nutrition, and exercise; social interactions; finances; and business—coupled with the increased application of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. What we know today about genetics comes mostly from studying sub-populations with specific diseases, identifying common genetic variations and then comparing an individual to those data. As consumer adoption increases to hundreds of thousands and millions and we integrate genomic data with other biomedical information we will exponentially increase our learning as a society and impact on the individual level.
Here are just some of the ways we see the Era of the Social Genome unfolding:
“Whole Genome Sequencing will replace all genetic tests, because it is all genetic tests and much, much more.” – George Church, Veritas co-founder & genomics pioneer
- Genotyping-based tests (like 23andMe) will be supplanted completely by WGS because of the differences that make WGS far more comprehensive and meaningful, such as looking at your whole genome versus less than 1% of your DNA.
- A predominant format and standard (like Arvados) will be adopted by research and clinical institutions—along with sequencing and interpretation companies—to store, manage, process, share, and monetize genomic data. Machine learning tools will be deployed across millions of standardized genomes.
- WGS will become fully integrated into healthcare in the US, driving the evolution of the current model of generalized, reactive, treatment-oriented care further toward personalized, proactive, preventive medicine. Already, organizations like the Mayo Clinic are making make whole genome sequencing available to patients.
- Every newborn in the US will be sequenced, and their genomic information used to guide their healthcare from day one.
- Existing and new companies will launch consumer products and services to manage, safeguard, distribute, and monetize personal genomic information. These will include:
- Health and life insurance products that take into account genetic risks.
- Dating services that incorporate genetic information into “match” algorithms.
- Reproductive services that include gene editing and enhancements.
- Applications for platforms like Alexa, Siri, and Google Home—even Amazon Prime membership—that allow access to your genome sequencing results, related health insights, and complementary services or recommendations.
- Escalation of DNA data marketplaces like Nebula Genomics and Luna DNA.
- Integration of your genomic data with other “omics sciences” such as microbiomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics.
- Straight-tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google will increasingly acquire health-tech companies despite consumer distrust .
- New regulations and laws will be established to ensure consumer privacy and security, as well as equal access, and to accommodate the opportunities and risks that accompany WGS, gene editing, and synthetic biology.
That’s just scratching the surface of what’s to come. New genomic findings and applications are being discovered virtually every day, and it’s impossible to know exactly where the science will lead. Will everyone have their genomes sequenced as a matter of course? Will genetic engineering and synthetic biology be used to prevent the spread of viruses, cure cancer, or enhance human beings for space travel?
The possibilities are endless, but there’s no doubt that the Era of the Social Genome will introduce complex and profound societal issues. We believe this is a pivotal point in human history, a time for us all to become better informed and engaged in the conversations shaping the genomics revolution.
– Rodrigo Martinez, Chief Marketing & Design Officer and Mirza Cifric, Co-founder & CEO
UPDATE 04/18/19: Rodrigo discusses the social genome with Theral Timpson at Mendelspod! Check it out here!
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