Blockchain to combat Type II diabetes epidemic in India

Genomics specialist Shivom is aiming to transform diagnosis and treatment of a disease that is pervasive in the country

A pioneering diabetes pilot to collect, sequence and analyse DNA in India, with the aim of using the data for improved diagnosis and treatment of a devastating disease.

Genomics and precision medicine startup Shivom is working with diagnostic partner Genetic Technologies with the goal of finding unique genetic markers specific to Indian subpopulations that may help explain why the country has one of the highest rising prevalences of the type II diabetes in the world.

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose. It can lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

Incidences of type II diabetes in India have more than quadrupled in 35 years, with communities developing the disease at younger ages and at lower body weights than other populations. According to the World health Organization, around 72 million Indians have the disease.

The ground-breaking pilot involves thousands of patients and will start in the south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh – some of whom have already been diagnosed with type II diabetes and control participants who do not have the disease.

The process will involve collecting saliva samples of the patients from which DNA will be extracted, analysed and secured on Shivom’s blockchain-based genomics datahub.

Shivom’s partner – diagnostics leader Genetic Technologies – will help analyse the collected anonymous genomic-samples and data with the goal of developing a diagnostic SNP panel specific to the Indian population.

Patients’ data will remain absolutely confidential and secure on Shivom’s blockchain-based genomics datahub. However, it will be easily shareable in anonymised form and interoperable across technological boundaries.

The patients will have control of their data at all times and can withdraw it from the database when they choose to. Participants are expected to receive health insights and benefits. In the future, they will have the option to be compensated for its use in trials.

Dr Axel Schumacher, founding member and Chief Scientific Officer of Shivom, said: “Shivom and the province of Andhra Pradesh are working to usher in a new era of precision medicine that successfully leverages state-of-the-art technologies, latest scientific advancements in genomics and new economic models, something we have never seen before.

“These have the potential to revolutionize the way healthcare pilots are performed, empowering all people to better manage their wellness, avoid diabetes, and to be stakeholders in the future of healthcare.”

Recently, Shivom also announced a partnership with EMQT, working together to collect data on Sickle Cell Disease in Nigeria, Africa. Such partnerships are the building blocks in gathering diverse patient data in the global healthcare community and as securely as possible.

Organisations operating in the health and related sectors will be able to access information contained in Shivom’s data-hub once an individual chooses to release their DNA data.