MASSIVE PLAN FOR GENETIC TESTING OF 3 MILLION RESIDENTS
This is kind of a wow story. The ever faster pace towards new technology in healthcare is hard to keep up with. But when it comes to DNA mapping for individuals, it’s hard to know what to think. Popular services in the West like 23andMe offer people the opportunity to have a better idea of their ancestral background. But these services now also offer clients the ability to get information about their long term health prospects. Are you prone to cancer, obesity or osteoporosis for instance? These tests claim to tell you the answers. But news is that Dubai plans to create a massive genomic database of all of its 3 million residents. This will include non-citizens as well. But even more, Dubai plans to create an artificial intelligence that will be able to analyze all of the genetic testing. Potentially, they hope to predict diseases in people before they happen.
DUBAI PLANS TO WORK WITH BIG PHARMA IN HEALTHCARE STRATEGY
This was originally reported from the Khaleej Times. The Dubai Health Association will implement the plan for genetic testing. The city describes it as wanting to “reverse” their genetic research process. “Instead of studying an affected patient’s genetics, our AI goes through database, finds out who has been affected, and looks for non-patients with similar genetic profiles and are therefore at risk,” according to the project’s website. The project’s final phase is their hope to collaborate with, get this, big pharma to design specialized therapies for genetic conditions. What could go wrong? Well, a lot. Privacy so far has been the biggest loser in the new age of genetic services.
PRIVACY A MAJOR CONCERN WITH DATABASE, BIG PHARMA, FUTURE TECHNOLOGIES
But it does sound nice, doesn’t it? Say there are 50 or a thousand people who had a particular illness. Then say that your genome has enough specific similarities that you are likely at risk for the same illness. Maybe this project can help you before you even get sick. It could certainly let you know what lifestyle changes might help you live a lot longer in better health. But once the genetic genie is out of the bottle there’s no putting it back. What if someone hacks he database? The most personal information about you would then be on the black market. Or, even worse, let’s say in a few years someone could make a killer virus aimed at just you. But maybe it’s just aimed at people genetically similar to you and you are collateral damage. Oops.
GENETIC GENIE OUT OF THE BOTTLE
But so far we don’t know if this project has immediate legs or not. It’s no small affair mapping the genomes of over 3 million people. But someone it looking at that genie bottle, and they want to give it a shine.