Hacking has increasingly been making headlines over the last few years. At the same time, cybersecurity has been in the same story covering large-scale data breaches or website shutdowns. For most people, the threat of hacking involves the stealing of identity, fraud and banking. But, there's a more personal vulnerability that could develop with the emergence of precision medicine. Instead of stealing a password, cyberthieves could be snooping for your genetic information. Luckily the burgeoning field of genomic security is there to stop would-be criminals.
Your Genes, Your Medicine
Medicine has always been tailored to an individual's needs. Whether it's a prescription for an allergy medicine or contact lenses, medicine is personal. Precision medicine takes healthcare to the next level by customizing treatments based on your specific genetic information. All the genes in your body add up to a big book of you. In a specific chapter, there could be a story about your genes that lets your doctor know what type of medicine to administer.
"Our goal for this facility is to be a regional destination center for active people seeking innovative and inclusive sports medicine services. The Sports Medicine and Life Performance Institute brings resources and expertise - academic, clinical and material - all together in an exceptional facility. This pioneering approach and our profound commitment to patients will create value that attracts people from all over the Midwest," said Dr. J. Bryan Dixon of the Advanced Center for Orthopedics in a press release.
"From a service point of view I think any growth in the medical service area to our citizens can only be a benefit," said Marquette City Manager Mike Angeli.
Precision medicine can be used in cancer treatments. Doctors can look for specific genetic mutations that they can then target with chemotherapy or radiation. This type of treatment would lead to fewer side effects, which means a better recovery process.
All of this genetic information can be stored digitally, which opens up treatment to a global scale. You don't have to fly to a specialist in another state or country; instead they can pull up your genetic information to evaluate any treatment.
However, there is a drawback to this approach. Your genetic information is now genetic data, which means it has to be stored on a server, or the cloud. It's protected in the same way as other sensitive information, but there are concerns that a data breach could result in a criminal knowing everything about you in the literal sense.
Services offered at the facility include regional orthopedic and sports medicine services; a 24-hour gym offering medical fitness and wellness services; physical therapy, specialty spine and orthopedic rehab services; aquatic therapy, hand therapy, and athletic training services; and sports science research focusing on non-traditional treatments for cancer survivors.
Privacy is of the utmost importance when it comes to your DNA. Not only is this data personally revealing, it also identifies all the generations of your family from past to present to the future. Interestingly, the first step to protecting this highly sensitive information is space.
Because your genomic identity can be stored in large files, the future of precision medicine requires more hard-drive space. Legacy facilities designed to securely store medical data and records will need to be upgraded to accommodate the more sensitive genetic information. Other hardware and network upgrades, capable of dealing with files as large as 500 GB, will also be needed.
There are ways to create a framework of genomic security based on best practices developed in other areas of cybersecurity. A classification system that helps classify genetic information, thus making it harder for thieves to connect DNA with an individual, would be one layer of security.
Brian Sinotte, chief executive officer of UPHS-Marquette, said, "This one-of-a-kind institute is a key part of our broader effort to transform health care in our region to best meet the needs of our communities and neighbors for generations to come."
The facility is a collaboration between UP Health System Rehab Services, Northern Michigan University, Advanced Center for Orthopedics and Plastic Surgery, UP Rehab Services and Perform4Life Medical Fitness & Wellness Center.
Encryption would also need to be a part of the genomic security equation. From the database to the transit stage and any device capable of transmitting or accessing genetic data would need to be encrypted. Secure coding, so that no sensitive information can be found within the source itself, will also be needed to safeguard genetic information. Better auditing, which creates a chain of custody and command, will also be useful to determine any vulnerabilities.
Construction began on the $3.6 million, 25,000 square-foot facility in June 2016 and will be completed in February, with an open house and sign reveal planned for spring. The building is located at 841 W. Washington St.
Whereas data retention can be quantified in months, or a few years, genomic data needs to be held for decades or even a century if we're thinking about a family. Data centers need to be equipped to handle 50 years, or more, of data. That's a lot of storage and tracking, which means a different type of training is necessary.
The best security methods in the world won't matter without a good notification system. Early threat detection can help minimize any breach. Most importantly, genomic security needs to be holistic in nature with a goal of securing data for a very long time.