Thursday, October 27, 2011

Google to preserve a DNA database online

Google recently made an agreement with DNAnexus to maintain a genetic database on the internet. The decision was made after it came to light that the government might not continue funding the database. The database hold many "snippets of genetic data decoded by sequencing machines." While the "Sequence Read Archive" is currently the largest on the web, many assume there will be more extensive collections in the future. As DNA sequencing becomes cheaper opportunities to collect it in mass quantities are more available- such collections are invaluable in comparing archived and newly sequenced DNA. As the article notes, " a year ago it cost $30,000 to sequence a person's entire DNA. [And] today the number's down to $4000." Google has had a longstanding interest in genetic storage, so this move is not surprising. That said, it forces one to consider the ethics of placing such information online. What are the implications of making genetic data accessible via the internet? What new types of risks does that pose? These aren't questions currently being handled by Google, but they are inevitable in the fast moving transformation of genetic storage.


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