Our new Disruption by Blockchain series aims to highlight companies that are leveraging the incredible potential of blockchain technology to disrupt and revolutionize their industry. Through one on one interviews, we'll speak directly with industry leaders to cut beyond the hype and get directly to the heart of practical use cases and examples of how it will change the world, one industry at a time.
1. What’s the history of EncrypGen? How and where did you begin?
DK: We got to work in December 2016, and first organized as a Limited Liability Company in Jan, 2017. I had been working with my wife, Dr. Gonzalez, our co-founder, on issues of privacy and genomics. We have long collaborated as she is a genomic scientist and my background is as a professor of ethics and as a lawyer. I had also been a blockchain hobbyist of a sort for a couple years, mining and learning about the technology, and increasingly interested in its possibilities. I had been invited to speak at the University at Buffalo Bioinformatics Center for Excellence in Sept 2016, and decided to apply blockchain technology to genomics, and at that talk, I basically outlined the structure and purpose of what became the Gene-Chain. By Jan 2017, we raised our first seed capital and hired our first programming consultant. By May we had a prototype we debuted at the BIO-IT conference in Boston. Since then, we raised more capital, partly through selling our platform tokens, and have a staff of 13 employees around the world. We just presented our first product, MyGene-Chain at the London Festival of Genomics, and will launch publicly within a week. Our next several products are slated to be released over before April, 2018.
2. Who are the founders and key team members?
David Koepsell, JD/PhD, CEO and Founder
He has provided commentary regarding ethics, society, religion, and technology on: MSNBC, Fox News Channel, The Guardian, The Washington Times, NPR Radio, Radio Free Europe, Air America, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the Associated Press, among others. He has been a tenured Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Technology, Policy, and Management in the Netherlands, Visiting Professor at UNAM, Instituto de Filosoficas and the Unidad Posgrado, Mexico, Director of Research and Strategic Initiatives at COMISIÓN NACIONAL DE BIOÉTICA in Mexico, and Asesor de Rector at UAM Xochimilco.
Dr. Vanessa Gonzalez
INMEGEN, Natl. Institute for Medical Genomics, Depto. Bioquímica, Fac. Medicina, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México University at Buffalo. Specialties:
Pharmacogenomics, HPLC-UV/FL/MS, Molecular biology (PCR/RFLP/RTPCR/Genotyping)
Carolyn Seet, COO/CFO
Carolyn is passionate about process efficiency, especially around data and operations.
With over 20 years in financial and professional services, she brings a powerful combination of creativity, strategic insight, problem-solving skills and operational expertise. Some of her previous assignments include Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, RBS.
Notis Gasparis, CTO/CSE
As CTO, Notis brings over 20 years experience holding several software development positions among many global companies.
He holds a BSc in Computer Science, an MSc in Distributed Systems and a PhD in Software Engineering. He has also held positions at the University of Essex and Goldsmiths College.
Richard S Taylor, CMO
Richard brings 30 years of B-to-B and B-to-C integrated marketing, communications and management experience working with start-up to Fortune 500 companies in various industries that include technologies, healthcare and financial services.
He is leading EncrypGen’s worldwide marketing and sales teams.
3. What problem are you solving? Who are you solving it for?
DK: As more genetic data becomes easier to get and cheaper, there is increasing concern that the accumulation and dissemination of that data carry risks about the privacy of subjects, even while the value of that data is also increasing because of its benefits to science and health. We wanted to create a more safe, secure, and private means of storing and using the data, and also to provide more control for individuals over the use of their own data. Blockchains are distributed, immutable, encrypted ledgers and solve some of the basic issues associated with indicia of ownership, including describing the “metes and bounds” of the thing owned, and providing through cryptographic keys some mechanisms of dominion and control, and thus ownership. A genomic blockchain affords a good use case of enhancing security, privacy, and control, as well as a mechanism of payment for the use of an individual's most private data. In our case, we applied this to genomic data. This technology will help scientists have better access to data, and provide customers, subjects, and patients with better privacy and security.
Festival of Genomics in London
4. What is your solution to this problem?
DK: The Gene-Chain is a permissioned (private) blockchain, so we know who is using it, and we can track the use of data, provide for a payment mechanism for the data through our platform token called DNA, and allow people to store and use their genomic data for their own health as well as opt-in to scientific studies if they so choose. The software is licensed, and our business model has depended upon placing licenses and getting genomic data submitted for free to the chain by individuals. That portion goes live this week.
5. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?
DK: The global genomics market is estimated to reach US$23 billion by 2020. The development of genomic sequencing has driven huge economic output – between 1988 and 2010, genome sequencing has generated an economic impact (direct jobs, indirect jobs, funding) of $244 billion. Genomics is playing an increasing role in delivering on promises of personalized medicine, as well as helping to solve public health issues related to infirmities and diseases. The problems and public concerns of privacy relating to genomic data are not disappearing. People are becoming more concerned about the use of their data, their control of that data, and states are imposing more regulations to ensure that privacy.
Public policy may catch up with all of these concerns and better enable the science to move forward without sacrificing the public's increasing doubts, but a technological means, through employing a blockchain, can help, and so that's what a number of companies, led by EncrypGen's early efforts, are attempting to do.
6. What’s the future of your industry?
Prediction #1: Genomic data will become much more plentiful and expensive, unless technologies and policies that help ensure the privacy of donor-subjects are adopted, in which case the costs of using the data will decline as volume increases.
Prediction #2: Cheaper, more accurate testing will ensure that genomic data is able to be used more readily for personal care, for pharmacogenomics and other personalized medical approaches, and patients will demand to have portability and ready, private access to their own genetic data.
Prediction #3: Blockchains will dominate delivery of all sorts of health data, beginning with genomics, and involving a number of parallel, though interoperable chains.