Blockchain technology and the distributed ledgers that underpin it are making big waves in the health care industry. From global health care access to health contracts and payments, the technology is changing the industry block by block.
Blockchain-based genomic data hub platform Shivom recently reached its $35 million hard cap within 15 seconds of opening its main token sale. Shivom received funding from a number of crypto VC funds, including Collinstar, Lateral, and Ironside.
The goal is to create the world’s largest store of genomic data while offering an open web marketplace for patients, data donors, and providers — such as pharmaceutical companies, research organizations, governments, patient-support groups, and insurance companies.
“Disrupting the whole of the health care system as we know it has to be the most exciting use of such large DNA datasets,” Shivom CEO Henry Ines told me. “We’ll be able to stratify patients for better clinical trials, which will help to advance research in precision medicine. This means we will have the ability to make a specific drug for a specific patient based on their DNA markers. And what with the cost of DNA sequencing getting cheaper by the minute, we’ll also be able to sequence individuals sooner, so young children or even newborn babies could be sequenced from birth and treated right away.”
While there are many solutions examining DNA data to explain heritage, intellectual capabilities, health, and fitness, the potential of genomic data has largely yet to be unlocked. A few companies hold the monopoly on genomic data and make sizeable profits from selling it to third parties, usually without sharing the earnings with the data donor. Donors are also not informed if and when their information is shared, nor do they have any guarantee that their data is secure from hackers.
Shivom wants to change that by creating a decentralized platform that will break these monopolies, democratizing the processes of sharing and utilizing the data.
“Overall, large DNA datasets will have the potential to aid in the understanding, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of every disease known to mankind, and could create a future where no diseases exist, or those that do can be cured very easily and quickly,” Ines said. “Imagine that, a world where people do not get sick or are already aware of what future diseases they could fall prey to and so can easily prevent them.”
Shivom’s use of blockchain technology and smart contracts ensures that all genomic data shared on the platform will remain anonymous and secure, while its OmiX token incentivizes users to share their data for monetary gain.
“We also really like the general idea that it could help create a healthier and fitter society, which now values and understands how easy and important it is to look after yourself and your health in every way possible, not only through the in-depth analysis of each individual’s DNA but also through the OmiX platform, which will house a number of health care-based apps and services,” Ines said. “On a less serious note, it can help you lose weight by diagnosing what your optimum diet should be based on your DNA — a lot of people could potentially be both surprised and excited by that one.”
An obstacle to genomic data sequencing right now is diversity. The data currently held in public genomic databases comes from those who can afford DNA kits, and that makes accumulating this data difficult for many people around the world. The data tends to be compiled from Western European and North American consumers. But this funding will give Shivom the means to collect data from a far more diverse population.
“Of course, the building and development of the OmiX platform will take a significant chunk of the money,” Ines said. “This will enable users to upload their DNA, have it analyzed immediately, and connect them with treatment plans, support groups, and health care services.”
And that includes collecting diverse data from regions not usually serviced by the DNA testing kit marketplace.
“As far as the roadmap goes, we have several pilot projects kicking off right now in India and Africa — new partnerships with medical centers, data analytics firms, and pharmaceutical companies to look forward to,” Ines said. “Furthermore, we’ll be sequencing large groups of people with rare diseases, opening our first genomic service units with genomic counseling services in tow, and implementing AI and deep learning into our platform.”
AI plays an integral part in making use of genomic data, and Shivom is partnering with SingularityNET to analyze its entire database.
“SingularityNET is composed of pioneers and innovators in AI and deep learning,” Ines said. “They are known for being one of the contributors to the development of the world’s first humanoid, ‘Sophia’, because the SingularityNET AI team is involved with many research projects, including those that look at the genomics of longevity.”
The partnership with SingularityNET opens up the opportunity for third parties to develop products and services that use Shivom’s data.
“SingularityNET’s decentralized AI network provides an open market for anyone to develop, share, and monetize AI services and algorithms,” Ines said. “AI approaches are well-suited to model the complex dependencies within genomic data and can help predict an individual’s probability of developing certain diseases. Consequently, AI will play a central role in our platform to achieve greater depth in the interpretation of genetic information, including understanding how an individual’s genes may impact their lifestyle decisions and helping health care providers design therapies.”
The partnership isn’t a one-way street, however.
“It is our goal that AI agents on SingularityNET who require health care data will be able to request datasets from us,” Ines said. “In return, if a Shivom customer asks that AI analytics are to be performed on the medical data they have uploaded, the Shivom network will be able to request the technology from SingularityNET.”
The opportunities for combining DNA data and AI are almost endless and could offer tangible solutions to increase longevity in humans. Options could also include uploading data to AI machines and robots to help you “live” beyond death.
“Your DNA is what makes you unique,” Ines said. “It not only holds the secrets to what diseases you are at risk of developing, but it also stores information about your body, appearance, ancestry, psychology, personality, abilities, and much more. So once DNA sequencing, AI technology, and blockchain are mentioned all in the same sentence, I’m sure you can start to imagine the potentials this could hold for longevity, not only in the sense of the human form, but also when it comes to DNA being uploaded into AI machines securely with blockchain, after an individual has died.”