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Man Open Sources His Genetic Data

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the man-of-the-people dept.

Biotech 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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198 comments

I was here first (5, Funny)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224390)

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

Re:I was here first (2)

Cogita (1119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224502)

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

Propositioning someone is not the same as open sourcing you DNA sequence ;-)

Re:I was here first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224878)

Thank you for explaining joke!

Re:I was here first (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225182)

I've been trying to offer mine, but people lose interest when I make them read the GPL first.

Looking around... (5, Funny)

AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224392)

Where do we file bug reports?

Long term, not a good idea... (3, Funny)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224434)

He's going to find himself running over and over again in emulators in about 50 years.

Re:Long term, not a good idea... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224460)

I don't see anything wrong there, its insta-immortality right there.

Man its going to suck being shut down though.

Re:Long term, not a good idea... (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224664)

>>>>>>e's going to find himself running over and over again in emulators in about 50 years.
>>
>>its insta-immortality right there.

Reminds me of the short story "Pretty Boy Crossover" from 1986. A young man converts himself to a virtual reality dance club, so he can remain young forever, and be part of the ultimate Remix video.

http://www.exampleessays.com/viewpaper/69933.html [exampleessays.com]

Re:Long term, not a good idea... (4, Interesting)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224466)

That is one method of immortality.

Immortality for the copy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224636)

I'd prefer immortality for the original.

Re:Long term, not a good idea... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225144)

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.

Re:Long term, not a good idea... (5, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Long term, not a good idea... (1)

sjwest (948274) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225096)

Hela cells came from a cancer biopsy sample with a consent form. No one should suggest that Henrietta Lacks is still around.

Yes there is mistrust of doctors but.....

Creative Defense (2, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224442)


"Your Honour, my client wasn't sexually assaulting the alleged victim, he was merely Open Sourcing his genetic data."

how long befor some calms a IP rights to part of (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224444)

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

Re:how long befor some calms a IP rights to part o (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224484)

Clearly his parents hold rights and previous art.

Re:how long befor some calms a IP rights to part o (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224708)

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.

Re:how long befor some calms a IP rights to part o (1)

pieterh (196118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224772)

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 patenting the DNA (which no-one does because even Texas judges are not that stupid) would.

If you're going to use terms like "IP", which is little more than a trick for confounding patents with economically sane forms of exclusion, please at least don't confuse copyright and patents (and ship hull designs and plant variety rights and trademarks and domain names and trade secrets, which are all forms of "IP").

Re:how long befor some calms a IP rights to part o (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224868)

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.

Re:how long befor some calms a IP rights to part o (1)

nzap (1985014) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224992)

I don't know if it was pedantic. From my understanding, GP was pointing out that as long as the guy doesn't try to make money off of his sequence, he can't be sued. If it was copyrighted, they could sue him for thousands of times its actual value e.g. p2p.

Re:how long befor some calms a IP rights to part o (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225246)

His post was definitely informative so I don't mind the pedantry which I detected in the section reading "please at least don't confuse copyright and patents...etc.". It's not so much a genuine plea as a hint of patronizing irritation followed by an ostensible clarification which is not clear at all. I appreciate the corrections. I'll tolerate the tone as long as I'm permitted to be snarky about it.

What about his relative's right to privacy (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:What about his relative's right to privacy (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224848)

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 brain would hopefully realize that's opening themselves up to quite a liability for little savings. If every other person were uploading their DNA sequences, that might make it cost efficient for some unscrupulous insurance company to try to discriminate against siblings, but just one family, I doubt it. If his siblings were to run for office and their brother had a heritable, neurodegenerative disease, that might be an issue.

Here's what he's doing (5, Interesting)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Here's what he's doing (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224550)

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]'.

Re:Here's what he's doing (1)

Manfre (631065) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225106)

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.

Re:Here's what he's doing (3, Informative)

yincrash (854885) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Here's what he's doing (1)

metrix007 (200091) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224810)

Simply releasing something onto the web is not sufficient proof of prior art. It might help sure, but it isn't enough by itself.

That's silly (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224450)

He's not "open sourcing" anything. He's publishing data about his genetics, not any source. He likely doesn't have the ability to modify the "source" to make improvements or changes to the system, or to release a newer version with intentional, controlled changes (as opposed to the normal genetic lottery which is procreation).

Re:That's silly (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224722)

How is it different than Monsanto breeding/engineering Round-up ready soy-beans? He could select a bunch of mates and have children. The most successful ones are the next product?

Re:That's silly (5, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225046)

He is most certainly releasing the source code. In his case, it's a reverse-compile, so the code is messy and doesn't have any documentation, and probably has lots of GOTO loops in it.

However, like most open-source objects, he's not including the compiler. You have to find or build your own compiler to compile the source into another being.

I'm only aware of one compiler, but I can't figure out the make file format for 100% predictable results, and speculating as to its exact nature of this compiler is a matter of biology, philosophy, or religion, depending on which "man" file you open.

Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (2)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224482)

Can we upgrade our calcium bones to a stronger metal?

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (1)

Cogita (1119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224526)

Can we upgrade our calcium bones to a stronger metal?

How about, just to any metal?

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (2)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224608)

You mean, like the metal calcium?
Check your periodic table. It IS a metal.

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224668)

But in our bones it's calcium oxide.

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224728)

Does that mean our bones are rusted metal?

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224860)

Does that mean our bones are rusted metal?

Rusting happens to ferrous materials such as iron, so our blood is rusty metal.

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (1)

nzap (1985014) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225038)

Interesting proposition, especially considering that we bond fluoride with our teeth using toothpaste and other methods.

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224552)

Downloading a copy of his source, splicing in your own code, throwing in a few random unintentional changes, and spending the next several years bugfixing, tweaking, and adding features? ...I think they already have a word for this, and it's almost, but not quite, "forking."

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225202)

it's called "impregnating his sister or mom" followed by parenting.

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224594)

A read about this a few days ago. Someone already did a fork and issued a pull request.

https://github.com/msporny/dna/pull/1

Re:Open Source? So that means we can fork him? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225276)

I just wonder who's gonna get commit rights. And if Sporny is ready for people rewriting his DNA to fix perceived performance or security problems.

Privacy (1)

linuxgeek64 (1246964) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224476)

Why do people treat genetic data as though it's the most confidential document in history? It's just a long string of base pairs, amirite?

Re:Privacy (1)

uncledrax (112438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224560)

Largely, I'm with you.. but I think it's more about things in the future like 'oh.. you are gonna have prostate cancer and will be prone to clinical depression, and this here genetic marker indicates you will be homosexual, and this one says you have a small penis and offensive body-odor'..

Based on those things, persons might choose to treat him different.. I guess?

Until we find the gene sequence that shows you're more prone to effective advertising or that you're better at paying your mortgage on time, it's still as far as I can see, largely more about physical traits.

Re:Privacy (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224870)

and offensive body-odor'

God, I'd hate for my DNA to be sequenced and get out into the public so that people would know my secret: that I have HORRIBLE BO! Then I wouldn't be able to lure people into sniffing my armpit anymore and finding out the easy way!

Re:Privacy (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224804)

Why do people treat genetic data as though it's the most confidential document in history? It's just a long string of base pairs, amirite?

Are you kidding? This could lead to the ultimate identity theft.

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224928)

Why do people treat genetic data as though it's the most confidential document in history? It's just a long string of base pairs, amirite?

You could extend the same logic thus:

What's the problem if we convert linuxgeek64 into motor oil and lawn fertilizer? It's just a bunch of chemicals mixed with water, amirite?

A fun game (1)

MadTwit (1918654) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224488)

Spot the patented genes!

Re:A fun game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224626)

Actually, you're closest to the mark of all the posters so far.
He's trying to use the "if you don't defend your patent, you lose it" part of the system to attack the biogen companies that have been patenting genes left and right.
He's daring them to come after him.

His epigenetic codes are still proprietary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224516)

If you actually implement anything using his genome you may be on the hook to pay licensing for the runtime.

Makefile (4, Insightful)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224538)

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

Re:Makefile (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224644)

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

There may be something to that.

# make love
Not war.

Let's see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224618)

Maybe put his code out there because he knows his DNA might be found in connection with a murder investigation.

When his DNA is found on the scene of a crime he can claim someone must have fabricated it and put it there...

Sounds dirty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224630)

He open sourced his genetic data all over the Internet.

Patented genes (3, Interesting)

tsa (15680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224652)

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 (4, Interesting)

aBaldrich (1692238) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.)

He's a slashdotter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224740)

and he's hoping that in the event his dna isn't naturally replicated, someone in the future will be able to clone him.

There's only one thing to do (1)

oopsdude (906146) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224780)

Create a "tail" branch. Hopefully it'll be merged with master in a couple million years. Insert further distributed project management jokes here.

GIT? Is he planning on getting Cancer? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35224818)

The creator of git bisect will win the Nobel

Free samples (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224828)

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 genes (in the form of an unwanted pregnancy she is unwilling to terminate).

Forks & merges (2)

Rui Lopes (599077) | more than 3 years ago | (#35224972)

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?

He is violating several patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35225068)

Several medicinal corporations have patents involving our genes, he is violating those patents.

Re:He is violating several patents (1)

cmiller173 (641510) | more than 3 years ago | (#35225286)

Are you suggesting that he has actually created a product using those patented genes?

If a million monkeys get their DNA sampled, do we (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35225168)

If a million monkeys get their DNA sampled, do we get to read Shakespeare?

copyright genetic data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35225210)

If I copyright my genetic data, can I sue my kids for copyright infringement?
Or sue my wife for copying?

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