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June 3, 2013

Your DNA Data: The New Web Currency?

Alex Woodie

Savvy Web consumers today are accustomed to getting stuff for free, in exchange for sharing a little information about themselves or subjecting themselves to ads. Now, a Minneapolis, Minnesota startup is putting a genetic twist on that model by enabling people to sell their DNA data to others, including marketers.

Miinome is hoping that recent breakthroughs in genetics testing, big data analysis tools, and social media platforms will usher in a Web-friendly business model for the new genetic age, or what it dubs “the first member controlled human genetic marketplace.”

Here are the facts: Big reductions in the cost of DNA sequencing tests–now about $700 to sequence the “exome,” the sweet spot of a person’s chromosomes–is driving an exponential increase in DNA sequencing. Several hundred thousand people are expected to get the test this year according to the MIT Technology Review.

In several years, experts predict that millions of people will get their DNA sequenced each year, thanks to steadily lowering DNA testing costs. That could create a “tipping point” with respect to the amount of DNA data available on the market.

But here’s the rub: at 500 GB per person, the human genome requires a bit of heavy computational lifting. That’s where Miinome sees the giant server farms assembled by the likes Google coming into play. With the right distributed model, the genetic data can be sorted and correlated with other data feeds (such as family history and environmental conditions–even your grocery store receipt) to generate valuable information.

The question then becomes: What do you do with that information? In Miinome’s marketplace model, individuals will retain total control over their DNA data. The company will allow members to share their data with philanthropic organizations, such as those looking for cures to diseases like cancer. Or they could opt to share their data with a drug company to get a discount on blood pressure medicine.

Miinome, which is still in beta, will use a recommendation algorithm to match the genetic and environmental data of its members with customer demand. It will charge customers for access to its members’ data based on the available supply of genetic traits and demand for them from researchers and commercial outfits. The three-person company is still in beta, hasn’t disclosed who its tech partners are, and is looking for funding, according to a story in Minnesota Business.

There’s value in individual’s genetic data, and Miinome may be one of the first tech firms to find out how to extract that value.

Related Items:

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Detecting Cancerous RNA Signatures with Big Data

What Can Enterprises Learn From Genome Sequencing?