This year Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG), formerly known as Google, has been in a full court press to leverage their massively advanced computing infrastructure to figure out a way to do the unthinkable: slow down human aging!
The irony of this whole effort is that Calico, a biotech spinoff company of Alphabet, is running out of data to crunch. They’re simply having a hard time finding people willing to donate their DNA.
Google Ventures CEO Bill Maris, the man behind Calico, essentially told an interviewer earlier in the week that people should stop whining and give their DNA to Google to play with.
Maris has also suggested that people’s DNA isn’t really private: we shed massive amounts of skin cells every day in public. Researchers could just dig in your trash and find a fresh sample.
Disregarding the fact that simply isn’t true – researchers currently need a much bigger sample than just a couple cells to get any real genetic insight – his suggestions have caused a bit of an uproar.
He’s offered some pretty stark words for his naysayers, however: “If we keep our genetic information secret, then we’re all going to die.” Last time I checked, there were only two certainties in life: death, and taxes. But I digress.
There’s also the accountability issue. Earlier in the year, biotech company 23andMe – which Maris’ firm invests in – got in a lot of hot water for selling $100 DNA kits to people who wanted to know their ancestry… then re-selling the private data its customers paid for to large pharmaceutical companies for heaps of cash.
Or how about the case of the late Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were experimented on for 25 years without her family knowing… but led to breakthroughs in the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization.
Clearly some good comes from this. But where do we draw the line?
No matter what side of the argument you’re on, one thing is certain – Alphabet and other Big Tech firms are out to get your personal DNA, because human genome analytics is turning into a massive business.
Personally, I think if proper controls are in place, our DNA data could be used for more good than evil, but only time will tell. I am closely tracking the DNA analytics trend via my social media collective intelligence system and am planning on making some market plays in my BioTech Intel Trader service.
Editor, Biotech Intel Trader