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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 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?

  • 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.
  • by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:18PM (#35224466)

    That is one method of immortality.

  • 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 []

    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 [] 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 (, 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.)

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @04:48PM (#35224750)
    You jest, but HeLa cells [] 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.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe