Apple Plans to Get All up in Your DNA
News May 07, 2015
It is has been confirmed that the world's most valuable company, based on market capitalization, is collaborating with researchers on apps that would let some iPhone owners have their DNA tested. The apps are based on the company's ResearchKit software platform launched in March that helps hospitals and scientists run medical studies on iPhones by collecting data from the phones' sensors or through surveys.
Apple already has a health app called Health, which runs on the company's most recent version of the iOS operating system. It is reported that Apple is now "closely involved" in two studies that will collect DNA. One study is being led by the University of California, San Francisco, while the other is headed by Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
The studies would look at a panel of 100 or fewer disease genes, not a person's entire genome, and would be approved by Apple, as well as an institutional review board. Apple would not collect or conduct the DNA testing itself. Instead, UCSF and Mount Sinai would do both. The data would be kept on a computing cloud maintained by scientists, though some of the results could also appear on a consumer's iPhone, and users could "swipe to share 'my genes' as easily as they do their location," MIT Technology Review says.
If it follows through on the supposed plans, Apple would join other big technology firms such as Google and IBM that are building businesses in the genetics space. But Gholson Lyon, a geneticist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory wonders whether consumers are even interested in DNA testing.
"In 10 years it could be incredibly significant," he says. "But the question is, do they have a killer app to interact with their DNA quickly and easily."
Scientists want access to data collected by others for their research, but such access could also compromise personal privacy, even after removal of so-called personally identifiable data. Now, statisticians are developing synthetic networks that may increase the availability of some data while still protecting individual or institutional privacy.