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Genomic Privacy (BIDA Seminar)

  • Speaker: Mark B. Gerstein, Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Yale University
  • Date: Thursday, 14 July 2016 from 11:00 to 12:00
  • Location: Room 153

I will talk about Genomic Privacy in general and then in relation to a specific application of RNA-seq data.
In general, with every new exciting development in genomics comes the often under-appreciated ethical, legal and social concerns.
Particularly with regard to issues of privacy, there are trade-offs as the technology continues to develop and the real-life applications of genomics become more of a reality.
Numerous technical solutions have been proposed, but every technical safeguard is accompanied by increased complications with analysing and manipulating datasets.
Moreover, technical solutions invite both white-hat and black-hat efforts of circumvention, making them less useful in the long-run.
I propose a multi-prong approach to dealing with privacy issues in genomics that includes technical, regulatory and social advances that will create an environment that both safeguards privacy, prevents harms associated with a lack of privacy and promotes innovation in the fields of genomics and medicine.
To illustrate the complex aspects of privacy, I go through two case studies that inter-relate RNA-seq data (and functional genomics data, in general) with variants.
On one hand, scientists can use these data to generate general conclusions; on the other hand it is interesting and worthwhile to relate it to genetic variants. I go over some aspects of private information leakage in dealing with RNA-seq, particularly related to eQTLs.
Then I describe aspects of RNA-seq calculations that cannot be abstracted from variants -- particularly, those related to allele-specific expression.