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Man Open Sources His Genetic Data 198

An anonymous reader writes "Manu Sporny, founder and CEO of Digital Bazaar, has decided to use GitHub to store a very interesting project. Rather than a piece of software, he is listing his own genetic data as an open source project. He has released all his rights to the data and made around 1 million of his genetic markers public domain. As to why he decided to do what many may feel is a risky sharing of data so personal and unique to himself, Manu explains: 'I've thought long and hard about each of those questions and the many more that you ask yourself before publishing this sort of personal data. There are large privacy implications in doing this. However, speaking solely for myself, I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.' Manu hasn't gone into great detail as to his thought processes yet, but promises to on his blog at a later date."
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Man Open Sources His Genetic Data

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  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:12PM (#35224390)

    I've been offering my DNA samples for at least 20 years now.

  • by AndyAndyAndyAndy ( 967043 ) <afacini@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:13PM (#35224392)
    Where do we file bug reports?
  • by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:16PM (#35224434)
    He's going to find himself running over and over again in emulators in about 50 years.
    • by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:18PM (#35224466)

      That is one method of immortality.

      • not unless we also invent the neural state scanner to record state of mind and memories. But once we have that and a way to inject sensation into our own brains, then we can surreptitiously get a DNA sample and scan of that hot cute coworker to run in virtual sex sim. Who would be hurt by this? no one, it's win-win.
    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:48PM (#35224750)
      You jest, but HeLa cells [wikipedia.org] have been around for about 60 years. They're an immortal line of cancer cells taken from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. HeLa cells have been used in numerous labs around the world, per mass, there is more HeLa than there ever was Henrietta Lacks. I don't think anyone would have ever expected that at the time.

      Then again, Lacks never gave consent for the cells to be used, whereas this guy chose to make this data available.
      • Are you saying the strain Lacks consent?
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:17PM (#35224442) Homepage Journal

    "Your Honour, my client wasn't sexually assaulting the alleged victim, he was merely Open Sourcing his genetic data."
    • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:22PM (#35224506) Homepage Journal
      Sounds more like an unauthorized code injection...
    • You jest, but I really find the practice of using fingerprint and DNA evidence to prove guilt disturbing and flawed.

      Lets say I were going to commit a crime.

      I've seen many people who approximately match my description. It would take very little time for me to follow behind someone and nab their used drink cup and/or a few strands of their hair. After studying their routine I could schedule my crime to leave them with a very weak alibi (or none at all).

      After finishing my dirty deed I could simply plant thei

  • how long before some calms a IP rights to part of the data and sues him?

    • Probably a while, but it's definitely possible. Michael Crichton wrote a rather dull book on the issue of corporations copyrighting DNS sequences:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next_(novel) [wikipedia.org]

      If it's IP, though, I'd like to point out the fact that you can't sue anyone for playing the twelve-bar blues in A because it's a traditional piece. Maybe this guy will become a 'traditional' DNA number.

      • by pieterh ( 196118 )

        Next was about patenting, not copyrighting, gene sequences. Copyrighting a gene sequence would make it illegal for carriers of that gene to reproduce. Patents make it illegal for anyone to make money using that gene. And the trick with genes is that one does not patent the DNA at all, but the RNA, which is the 'negative' of the DNA sequence. The RNA is artificially produced, thus an invention. And to do any work with a sequence of DNA you always need RNA, so patenting the RNA gives the same result as patent

        • What about people writing custom literature in their DNA?

        • OK so I didn't pay attention. Like I said, the book was dull.

          Another significant difference between IP and patents is that patents typically expire whereas IP rights may not, if owned by a corporation -- or at least that's my armchair lawyer's understanding. Feel free to pedantically correct me again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:17PM (#35224446)

    Well, you could argue that anyone has the right to do this, but his DNA sequences will also be fairly close to his relatives DNA and you could probably make some assumptions about them and their predilection to certain diseases or whatever.
    I wonder if he asked for his relative's permission?

    • Those sequences would change the expected probability of his relatives having the same sequences, but outside of a twin, it's not definite. I think any health insurance agency is going to have a hard time finding a way to deny coverage to, say, his sibling if he had markers for a given disease. If someone were to go into his sequences, scan for disease markers, and put a notice on their system to watch out for his sister trying to get insurance, that would be bad, but any evil insurance agent with half a
      • Well, you could argue that anyone has the right to do this, but his DNA sequences will also be fairly close to his relatives DNA and you could probably make some assumptions about them and their predilection to certain diseases or whatever.
        I wonder if he asked for his relative's permission?

        If every other person were uploading their DNA sequences...

        His and his relatives' DNA literally pours off of their bodies as they walk about town. They haphazardly shed skin and hair every where they go, and toss disposable saliva laden cups into public waste bins.

        YOUR DNA IS NOT PRIVATE INFORMATION; Neither are your fingerprints or the brand/size/color of your clothes.
        Anyone who wants your DNA only has to wait till you've visited a public place, then clean up after you.
        I only wished that courts would realise this too.

    • His DNA sequence will also be fairly close to any ethnic group to which he belongs.

      Thanks to DNA sequencing, it is known that Jewish women of Central and Eastern European origin [nytimes.com] have a higher than normal risk of getting breast cancer.

      Should every one's right to information be limited by whatever group feels their "privacy" rights are more important?

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:17PM (#35224448)
    While I can't actually speak for him, I have a pretty good guess at what he's doing.

    He's establishing his DNA as "prior art".

    Anyone who tries to patent some element of DNA (and there's plenty who will try to) now has a rather significant obstacle to overcome, especially since at least 99% of DNA is the same between people.
    • They will just patent a 'method of using gene #456753 to test for risk of [disease X]'. Or 'an apparatus that treats [disease Y] by examining the patient's genetic profile and adjusting treatment accordingly; specifically, by use of gene #487532 to determine patient's likely reaction to [treatment Z]'.

      • by Manfre ( 631065 )

        I don't see anything wrong with patenting a discovery that allows using the information from our DNA. There are huge issues with companies trying to patent the actual DNA because millions of people would infringe on it merely by existing.

        • The problems REALLY start when they patent an alteration to a gene, because that invariably comes with DRM that makes SecuROM look nice. Go look up Monsanto some time - if the people in charge there were in charge of the RIAA, "copy file" would be considered illegal, and merely owning a computer would require you to pay them a license, since you could accidentally pirate something.

          Thus why it's an extremely bad idea to allow ANY gene patents.
        • and the ultimate evil:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto [wikipedia.org]

          Patenting a plant, then suing people when nature happens and the plant is fertilized into their field.

    • by yincrash ( 854885 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:52PM (#35224784)
      The genetic data he is making public domain are the 1 million SNPs that 23andme.com compile. SNPs are the 1% that is different from person to person and this is just 10% of that 1%. So it does not cover the 99% of DNA that is the same between people.
      • by gringer ( 252588 )

        So it does not cover the 99% of DNA that is the same between people

        There's no need for it to cover that. The consensus DNA sequence (human genome reference sequence) is freely available from the NCBI [nih.gov] website [nih.gov].

    • Simply releasing something onto the web is not sufficient proof of prior art. It might help sure, but it isn't enough by itself.
    • Since a DNA sample is sequence tolerant, meaning it can occur just about anywhere in a DNA strand, trying to claim industrial-style ownership becomes damn near useless.

      Researchers can claim that the sequence is open source and, apart from the portions that are unique to a specific individual, they'd be right.

      Its also a means of giving himself immortality in the minds of all genetic researchers.

      The name Manu Sporny may not roll off of the tongue as trippingly as Monsanto or Merk, but I'm already thanking him

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:17PM (#35224452)

    Add features that his users really want, like razor-sharp talons, wings, and burning laser X-ray eyes. I think that the future will be really interesting.

  • by makubesu ( 1910402 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:18PM (#35224462)
    His parents are going to get him for derivative works.
  • Link To DNA Source (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ancantus ( 1926920 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:22PM (#35224508) Homepage Journal
    For those not wanting to find it in the sea of links, Github DNA Source [github.com]
  • Makefile (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GNUALMAFUERTE ( 697061 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <etreufamla>> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:25PM (#35224538)

    There's a Makefile in the source. I assume it's a symbolic link to the kamasutra.

  • by shd666 ( 451529 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:26PM (#35224548) Homepage

    Please merge with me! git pull https://github.com/nportman/dna [github.com]

  • Patented genes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tsa ( 15680 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:36PM (#35224652) Homepage

    Haven't some genes been patented during the past years? How about the legal consequences of open sourcing these genes, which are part of his DNA?

  • Amateur genetics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aBaldrich ( 1692238 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:38PM (#35224666)
    There are a lot of amateur geneticists out there. Quoting from Nature [nature.com]

    Hours after Joseph Pickrell put his genome on the internet, an anonymous blogger took the data and concluded that he came from Ashkenazi Jewish stock. Pickrell, a genetics graduate student at the University of Chicago, Illinois, was sceptical about the claim. But after talking to relatives, he discovered that he had a Jewish great-grandfather who had moved to the United States from Poland at the turn of the nineteenth century. "It was a part of my ancestry I was totally unaware of," he says. The blogger, who writes under the pseudonym Dienekes Pontikos at http://dodecad.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] had commandeered Pickrell's DNA as part of the Dodecad Ancestry Project, an ambitious project in which cutting-edge genomic analysis meets Web 2.0. Pontikos analyses genetic data submitted by followers of his blog to reconstruct personal ancestry and human population history — and reports his findings online. He is part of a small but growing group of 'genome bloggers', a mix of professional scientists and hobbyists proving that widely available tools for computational biology could enable recreational bioinformaticians to make new discoveries. "They are not amateurs. They are far from being amateurs," says Doron Behar, a population geneticist at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, who studies human history. "I cannot stress enough the level of appreciation I have for their efforts." Pontikos has so far analysed several hundred thousand single-letter DNA variations from more than 2,200 individuals. That includes more than 200 submitted to him by readers of his blog, who had had their genomes analysed by genetics testing firms such as 23AndMe, based in Mountain View, California, with the remainder coming from publicly available datasets. The readers volunteering their genomes (identities stay private) are mostly keen to delve into their own ancestry. But Pontikos, who is from Greece and describes himself as an "anthropology dilettante", is more interested in unfurling the history of populations that tend to be overlooked by human-population geneticists. For instance, his analysis of genomes from people living in northern Eurasia reveals a genetic connection between populations in northern Finland and central Siberia (see 'Meet the ancestors'). David Wesolowski, a 31-year-old Australian who runs the Eurogenes ancestry project (http://bga101.blogspot.com), also focuses on understudied populations. "It's a response, in a way, to the lack of formal work that's been done in certain areas, so we're doing it ourselves," he says. Wesolowski and a colleague have drilled into the population history of people living in Iran and eastern Turkey who identify as descendants of ancient Assyrians, and who sent their DNA for analysis. Preliminary findings suggest their ancestors may have once mixed with local Jewish populations, and Wesolowski plans to submit these results to a peer-reviewed journal. But Pontikos sees little point in formally publishing his findings. "I can bypass them entirely, and have the entire world review what I write," he wrote in an e-mail. Indeed, comments on his blog — "could you please provide the eigenvalues for the principal component analysis", for instance — read like the niggling recommendations of a manuscript reviewer. ...

    Maybe he is opening his genome to anybody who wants to study it. Since it is the only Open Source genome, I'm sure there will be plenty of research, and he could benefit from it (not financially, but it's a nice relief to be assured that you can not have alzehimer, diabetes or whatever.)

    • They are not amateurs. They are far from being amateurs," says Doron Behar, a population geneticist at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, who studies human history.

      Does that mean that they don't enjoy what they do ? If they hate it so much why don't they just stop doing it ?

    • by glwtta ( 532858 )
      Since it is the only Open Source genome, I'm sure there will be plenty of research

      I suppose it is the only "open source" genome, unfortunately the label seems to have no meaning whatsoever in this context, and the whole thing is just a cheap publicity stunt.

      Essentially all data produced in academic labs is created as part of government-funded projects or is deposited in government funded databases when it's published - all of these are in the Public Domain, always have been, always will be.

      The 1000
  • step 1 - buy video game and install it
    step 2 - load your sequenced genes
    step 3 - play the game as yourself

  • Wow, according the data at offset 78934568917, he has a propensity for very small genitalia.
  • Don't you lose your proprietary rights over your genetic material if you give away free samples? I've been giving them away for years and I can't be surprised should a recipient have them sent to a lab and tested. I've never requested an NDA be signed by any women.

    Assuming that anyone has default proprietary rights over this information opens up some interesting questions about everything from paternity testing to the possibility of a DMCA takedown notice should someone make an unapproved copy of my gene

  • Personal Genome (Score:4, Informative)

    by jdoverholt ( 1229898 ) <jonathan.overhol ... l.com minus city> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:08PM (#35224944) Homepage
    PGP [personalgenomes.org] did it first.
  • As of now, he's got already 26 forks [github.com], so he's been cloned several times.

    But what will be impressive is having merges (via pull requests) accepted into the master branch. Crowd-sourced gene therapy (or mutation) anyone?

  • My condolences Mr Sporny.
  • Monsanto already owns the copyright to your DNA, especially if your parents lived downwind from a Roundup-ready cornfield, or if you ate any Taco Bell brand taco shells.
  • I can run his code on my pet turtle. Man.

  • All genetic data is public domain*. You're merely the temporary custodian of your particular permutations, combinations, and mutations.

    * yes. I know it probably isn't in a legal sense - but I've yet to see a convincing explanation of why it shouldn't be. We don't earn it or create it. We just pass it on or not.

  • Because anyone would guess his bank account password matches the first 5 markers? Medical info, ok sorta, but otherwise I'm missing the privacy issue here that could be exploited. Then again: " From:pharmco... Re:your genetics... We see in your genes you are due to have "performance" issues soon. Order your v14gra today! "
  • All we would need is complete neural map of his brain and way to clone him and imprint that neural map intot he cloned brain and we could essentially duplicate this guy.

    Since his "source" would be GPL, does that mean anyone could enslave him after cloning him????

  • by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @08:30PM (#35226980)
    This is the worst open source code I've ever looked at, it's a mess of spahetti code, full of kludge after kludge. There's no commenting and most of the code doesn't seem to do anything, there are functions that haven't been used in literally millions of years. Talk about bloat!

    How this stuff compiles and runs I don't know, it's clearly NOT intellegent design!

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