ResearchKit teaser 003

Apple is collaborating with US researchers to launch apps that would allow iPhone owners to get their DNA tested, according to a new report from MIT’s Technology Review. The apps are based on ResearchKit, a software platform Apple introduced in March that helps researchers gather data.

If true, Apple would join a growing battle for genetic information. Everyone from Google, to the government, to top universities are spending millions of dollars to amass large databases of DNA info in an effort to uncover clues that would help identify causes and possible cures for diseases.

MIT says that in two initial studies, Apple isn’t going to directly collect or test DNA itself, but will instead leave that up to academic partners. The end game is to enable individuals to share DNA information with different recipients, including researchers, as easily as they can their location.

Apple began taking a serious interest in health when it launched iOS 7 in 2013 with a standalone Health app. It has since built on that foundation with ResearchKit, which is already making a significant impact on medical research, and the launch of its activity and fitness-tracking Apple Watch.

The report claims Apple wants its DNA apps ready in time to show off at WWDC next month.

Source: Technology Review

  • derp

    We’re calling the NSA ‘researchers’ now? Interesting….

    • nonchalont

      Yup, the illuminati

    • DNA sequencing for disease research is not the same as DNA profiling for ID purposes.

      The regions of the genome used for DNA profiling are non-coding and are unlikely to be linked to disease, and conversely the data used for disease research are unsuitable for identifying someone just from their DNA.

      It’s an unfortunate misconception that the general populace always think “identity theft” whenever the word “DNA” is involved in any sentence.

      • mp

        Bravo. Very well explained, I must admit my first thought was along the lines of derp and nonchalont. Good to see you didn’t insult or offend with your level of knowledge on the subject. I’m fairly ignorant on the ‘types’ of DNA there appear to be, only familiar with DNA from hair and saliva samples. Mind you, how long before we have the technology for an attachment to the phone to take just that and send the results. Would that be something certain agencies would find useful?

      • Well, the work I’m involved with requires a collection of chemicals to extract and purify DNA from samples, and then there are several steps in increasing the amount of DNA in the sample before the fragments are separated and sequenced one by one. This involves chemicals that have to be stored at sub-zero temperatures and equipment that has its own custom power source, while the entire process can take several hours. It’s unlikely we’ll have a pocket-sized mobile version of this very soon.

        The closest to this is a portable machine that can just about fit into the size of a large suitcase, but it can’t generate a full profile like the equipment at the lab. With a few adjustments it could probably interface with a smartphone to manage and share data.

      • mp

        It wasn’t that long ago that a mobile phone used to be carried in a ‘suitcase’. A colleague friend of mine spent $5000 for the privilege with a whole 30 minutes of talk time. Thank you Motorola.
        I think in our lifetime, a full profile DNA of the type you describe will be able to be shared using a ‘phone’ sized device. Would you care to make a bet on it? We’ll use this comments section as our ‘time capsule’. For mobile phones it was approx. 30 years from suitcase to present. I predict 20 years for the DNA equivalent. 🙂

        Ps Law enforcement agencies would soil their cargo pants for this technology or the info from it.

  • U Kn0w What 1t 1s