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Decentralized Storage and Genomics
Iyappan SubbiahJan 5, 20242 min read

Decentralized Storage Is Powering The Future of Genomics Research

In the fast-paced world of technology and data, genomics has stood as a beacon of slow yet significant discovery. The groundbreaking Human Genome Project, mapping the sequence of the human genome, paved the way for researchers to unravel the mysteries of diseases and treatments. However, the colossal 3 billion base pairs of sequence data, equaling 3 gigabytes of computer storage, was only the beginning. Estimates now suggest a staggering 40 billion gigabytes of genomic data generated every year, pushing the boundaries of storage capabilities. As the wealth of data grows, so do the challenges faced by researchers in storage and retrieval. But fear not, for an emerging solution, decentralized storage, is poised to revolutionize genomics research.

We Need a Data Storage Revolution

With an ever-increasing number of university research laboratories focusing on genomics, students and principal investigators are now diving deep into studying the genome and employing groundbreaking tools like CRISPR to combat deadly diseases. Each genome sequence, once annotated, becomes readily available for public use. However, the surge in strong research leads to humongous data, and with it comes a problem: data storage and retrieval. Local networks strain under the burden of housing enormous files, hindering efficient collaboration between universities. Data transfers become arduous, vulnerable to theft, and local systems struggle to keep up, causing delays in retrieval times.

Decentralized Storage to the Rescue

To tackle these growing concerns, decentralized storage emerges as the panacea for researchers seeking maximum utility. Utilizing a peer-to-peer cloud storage solution, decentralized storage splits data into small encrypted pieces, distributing them across a network for easy retrieval. The benefits are many, complying with NIH storage requirements and surpassing traditional methods:

  • Resistance to data loss and theft: Data stored in multiple locations and protected by decryption keys ensure robust security against loss or unauthorized access.
  • Data availability across geographies: Researchers in different locations can seamlessly access data, fostering collaboration and speeding up research while minimizing costs.
  • Minimized costs and hardware concerns: With decentralized storage, there's no need for hardware/software upgrades, reducing the chances of hardware failure and cutting costs.

Leading the charge in decentralized storage is Filecoin. Filecoin operates as a decentralized storage network leveraging blockchain technology, creating a dynamic marketplace for storage providers and users. Users rent unused storage space and earn Filecoin tokens, while researchers can pay for storage using these tokens.

For example, GenRAIT, a genomics and healthcare startup, is utilizing the Filecoin network to store and manage large amounts of genomic research data. The company aims to make genomic data more accessible and affordable for scientists and researchers. By leveraging Filecoin, GenRAIT is able to securely store and access data, while also incentivizing the use of genome data. 

Additionally, researchers at Yale University are utilizing blockchain technology to allow individuals to have control over their own genomic data. This technology ensures the security and integrity of genomic information, protecting against corruption or loss. By giving individuals ownership of their data, it could advance personalized medicine and allow for direct access to doctors or researchers. 

Embracing the Future

Genomics research stands on the precipice of a new era, where data holds the key to unlocking life's greatest secrets. In this data-dense journey, decentralized storage emerges as the guiding light, empowering researchers to break free from storage limitations and collaborate effortlessly. Filecoin stands tall as the beacon of this revolution, enabling bioinformatic researchers to embrace the future with open arms.



Iyappan Subbiah

Iyappan Subbiah is a driven Biotechnology master's student at Northwestern University, and the president of the esteemed Association of Biotechnology Students (ABS). Originally from Chennai, India, he earned his bachelor's degree with honors in Biomedical Science and swiftly embraced both wet and dry lab work, later venturing into the commercial aspects of healthtech startups in his home country. Currently engaged in pioneering research at the renowned Kellogg School of Management, Iyappan's focus lies in studying the pharmacoeconomic evaluations of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). With a vision for the future, he aims to embark on a fulfilling career in life science consulting. Beyond academics, his passion for soccer echoes his earlier days as a semi-professional athlete in Germany, painting a picture of his diverse and dedicated character.