Apple Wants your DNA, so do Google, Amazon and IBM


Tech giants already collect an astounding amount of data about us, from location and interests to friends and buying behaviour. Now, with an upsurge in wearables, whole new datasets are being captured on ‘number of steps’, ‘calories’, ‘heart rate’ etc. But are you ready to share your DNA? The recent launch of ResearchKit has propelled Apple into the medical research space. Now, Apple is working with researchers in shaping initial studies that will collect DNA. In the two planned studies with researchers at the University of California and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Apple may allow partners to collect or test DNA via an iPhone app.

While this initial research is likely to be very narrow, it does point to a day when we could benefit from better prescriptions and treatments by having our DNA on hand to share with health professionals.

Apple isn’t the only one in the race for DNA. Google Genomics was created to help researchers and doctors cope with storing and managing DNA data. It’s essentially a cloud solution for genetic information.

Amazon has its own cloud storage platforms. The National Cancer Institute in the US announced $19 million project last month to move copies of the 2.6 petabyte Cancer Genome Atlas into the cloud. The data will be stored at both Google Genomics and in Amazon’s data centers.

Overall hopes for this genetic information are more and better data for medical research, closer matching of medicines and treatments to DNA traits and a greater capacity to capture, store, process and analyse data for insights and correlations. Google’s BigQuery is, for example, being used by researchers to quickly perform very large experiments comparing thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of people’s genomes.

In another dramatic example of the power of DNA data, IBM’s Watson supercomputer is improving treatments at fourteen cancer centers. The gargantuan task of matching data with treatments is now possible. Oncologists can upload the DNA of a patient's tumor and IBM’s Watson will sift through thousands of mutations and recommend what is likely to be the most effective drug.

Are you ready to share your DNA data?