In a world swathed in layers of mobile-users, tech savvy surfers and app developers, the synthesis of an application for genetics was only a matter of time. The latest innovation to have struck the bell is an online app for chronicling all your genetic information in order to endow you with a better comprehension and knowledge about your health risks and predispositions.
Justin Kao, co-founder of Helix, a genetic information app headquartered in San Francisco, is hopeful that populations across the globe will be as avid as he is about the concept of having an online digital library and warehouse of your genetic information.
Helix is conceptualised on the principle that our genomes are a powerhouse of information when it comes to our health susceptibilities and risks. And as it is known to all, they also serve as indicators of our physical characteristics and familial relationships. However, this information is not easily accessible except by the means of an ancestry test whose results are confined to a restricted genetic grid which is infinitesimal in comparison with the information that can be obtained on Helix.
Therefore, Kao found it perfunctory to launch a genetic app store which could facilitate a mass market for genetic data and information storage. Helix’s functionality is rather linear and simple. It collects a spit sample from the purchaser of the app, sequences and scrutinises his/her genes and then digitises the results so that they can be procured by software developers who want to subsequently sell related apps. These applications are augured to be made available on websites as well as both android and apple app stores.
In order to power the app, the company has taken the help of Illumina’s San Diego headquarters. Jay Flatley, Illumina’s CEO as well as the chairman of Helix, has said the SD headquarters stand to possibly be titled as the most colossal sequencing centre in the world.
The app store shall hit the market next year, as per the preliminary reports. Each purchaser will have the facility of manipulating the view settings and restrict the people who can access their information. The application is also equipped with a “nuclear button” to eradicate A, G, C and T. The other technical nitty-gritty’s are still in the process of being worked out.
Obtaining an approval from the FDA is one hurdle that looms in the imminent future. Their stipulated guidelines might decide the amount, intensity and nature of the information that may be allowed to reveal on the app.
Mirza Cifric, CEO of Veritas Genetics, questions, “The bottom line is going to be: What are the regulatory constraints on information that is truly useful?” His firm has taken several initiative to sequence a person’s entire genome is currently working on contriving its own genetic app with an added feature of Face Time with a genetic counsellor. Although he views the future of Helix with dubiety, he concurs with its basic concept. In his words, “The genome is an asset that you have for life, and you’ll keep going back to it.”