Rethinking Healthcare

Will your genetic source code be open or closed?

Will your genetic source code be open or closed?

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Where will the most progress come from? Does the path to cure lead through the private ownership of genetic codes, or will we make more progress is genes are part of the open source world?

The use of genetics in finding cures to diseases, now called genomics, may be the key to both your future health and economic growth.

Starting with the sequencing of a virus DNA by Fred Sanger in the 1970s, and extending to the sequencing of the entire human genome in 2001, scientists have been consumed with the task of decoding your genes, the genomes of disease, and manipulating genes to make new medicine.

Most of the work has been done in what computer scientists would call "closed source," in that genomes are subject to patent rights.

But there have long been efforts to carve out a place for open source in the effort, starting with the donation of the Human Genome Project's work in the government's GenBank system. Versions of the H1N1 flu virus are also being submitted to GenBank.

The open source advocates at O'Reilly point out that open source software has also been part of that mix, personifying that effort in David Dooling (above), assistant director for infomatics at the Genome Center in St. Louis.  His work uses a lot of open source software.

But there is a larger question, one I want readers to weigh in on.

Where will the most progress come from? Does the path to cure lead through the private ownership of genetic codes, or will we make more progress is genes are part of the open source world?

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure