Interviewer: Kim Jae-hong, managing editor / Record·photo : Moon Jung-won, reporter
While the gene information industry that is the key to the development of the bio-industry is growing rapidly, a company is receiving the spotlight as it has combined the Blockchain technology that is considered to be the flower of the fourth industrial revolution to the gene information business. It is Inflat Bio(CEO Kim Yang-hoon) that developed the Blockchain platform 'Inomix', which resolve concerns about leakage of personal information and can safely and conveniently trade personal gene data anonymously with the Blockchain technology in the situation where the 'security' problem must be solved because of the nature of the gene industry. [Business Report] met Kim Yang-hoon(41), CEO of Inflat Bio at a cafe in Gongdeok-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul on the 3rd, who has a desire to contribute to the maintenance of the health of the people as well as the development of new drugs and therapeutic drugs by leaping into a representative gene information bank in Korea, and has heard about the 'Personal Gene Data Blockchain Bio Platform' business plan which is promoted by Kim.
- Please explain 'Personal Gene Data Blockchain Bio Platform' briefly.
“The personal genome Blockchain platform ‘Inomix’ is an e-data bank. First, the personal genome is sequenced(sequence analysis) and the personal genome data is encrypted in the Blockchain to be saved on the Inomix platform. Within the Inomix platform, data providers and buyers would anonymously trade personal genome data in P2P format. In addition, genome data and transaction records traded on Inomix are encrypted and automatically saved in the Inomix Blockchain. The saved data can be owned and managed by any individual computer or mobile app."
- I am curious about the development situation of the gene information market.
"The growth of the gene information market can be explained in two ways. The first one is the global gene information market. According to the data from the Biological Research and Information Center, the market for consumer direct-referenced gene testing (DTC) has grown by more than 25 percent annually from 65.6 billion won in 2014 to 166.9 billion won in 2018, and it is expected to grow from 262.2 billion won in 2020 to 405.3 billion won in 2022. The gene information industry has a tremendous impact on the fourth bio industry in that degree and various business models are being developed. The second one is the utilization of gene data. If personal genome sequencing improves diagnosis and prevention of diseases and personalized therapies, and if it can be shared with researchers, it will be possible to identify the causes of many diseases and to be used in a wide variety of applications ranging from new drug development with few side effects to personalized cosmetics, health food, dieting, and genetic disease treatment. For these reasons, the size of the market is growing rapidly in Korea.
- Is there any case of the same concept as the Inflat Bio Inomix platform service?
"Already overseas, some genome information analysis companies such as 23andme which is invested by Google, Anestry, and Helix, a subsidiary of Illumina, are providing services to inform the analysis results as well as family search, diets, and health status, if any individual pays money. In Korea, as DTC is allowed for 12 items in 2016, many genome information analysis companies are created, providing services to inform the diagnosis results through their own web or mobile apps. Companies that combine genome data and Blockchain technology can also be found overseas. For example, WDNA that is developing a gene passport and Nebola Genomics in the United States declared Blockchaining."
- What is the difference between genomic sequencing in Inomix and general gene analysis?
"The technology for analyzing genomes is rapidly developing and diagnostic services are also diversifying as new references are emerging. However, as mentioned earlier, existing genome analysis companies provide diagnostic services to individuals by partially analyzing genomes and sell genome information to pharmaceutical and research institutions for development."
"Inomix standardizes essential information through the combination of whole sequencing or exome sequencing genome information and personal medical information with the Blockchain. Genome and medical information can be donated or sold for research purposes by connecting information providers and buyers (pharmaceuticals, research institutes, hospitals, etc.) directly except for analysis companies.
And also, if the information provider wishes, they will be provided with diagnostic reports using the tokens and mileage they receive when providing the information"
- He offered some ways to reduce sequencing costs.
"Currently, sequencing costs are from at least hundreds of thousands of won to about one million won. So even if individuals want to have genome data, the financial burden on cost is not small. As a result, the situation is more likely to pay for physical diagnosis than the sequencing data of the personal genome, and companies are analyzing only specific genomes for diagnosis. It is therefore difficult to collect the data needed for research."
-Please explain it more specifically.
"Because of this absurdity, Inomix has suggested a way to reduce the burden on sequencing costs to obtain more genome analysis data. First, we provide mileage that can be used for genome analysis costs when participating in events or surveys provided by Inomix. Second, we provide mileage when purchasing genetic analysis kits, cosmetics, and health foods sold by Inflat Bio which is the parent company of Inomix. Finally, profits can be generated by selling the access rights to personal genome information to research institutions and pharmaceutical companies through Inomix. We are expecting that if we lower the sequencing cost, more people would analyze the genome, and bio-research and bio-industry using genomes will be activated by increasing genome data”
- Do you expect that participation can be encouraged simply by lowering the sequence cost?
"Of course not. To actively participate in gene analysis, it would not be enough to lower sequencing costs. Above all, people's perception of genome analysis is important, and we have to go beyond various problems. First, Korea is more regulated by the government because of personal information protection and ethical issues than other advanced countries. Regulations should be relaxed to some extent. Ironically, however, genomic technology such as genome analysis technology and gene editing technology in Korea is world-class. They should be supported and genome data should be used more for new drug development and genome research and development.”
"As a famous movie star Angelina Jolie revealed that she got genome analysis and received mastectomy after discovering mutations that could cause breast cancer a few years ago, genes were widely known. And Steve Jobs, who established Apple, was died of pancreatic cancer in October 2011, even though it was not well known. Jobs tried to find a cure by spending $100,000 to analyze the genome information of pancreatic cancer cells, but he could not find a new drug for him and unfortunately he passed away a few months later. At that time, what Jobs said while analyzing gene information made headline. He said, 'I will be the first person who treats cancer with genome analysis, or one of the last people who die even though I have used this method.' If Jobs succeeded in treating cancer through genome analysis, many people would have expected the treatment through genome analysis and would want to know their genome information with more interest than now. Personal genome information is a necessary treatment for cancer treatments, and if it is more known to the public, the general public expects to have personal genome data."
- Can you explain more about the concept and scope of use of Inomix Token?
"The token(IPC) issued by Inomix is the P2P cryptocurrency used on the Inomix platform. Genome information owners can receive a token when they donate their information to a gene information bank, that is, Inomix. This token can be used to purchase cosmetics, health foods, gene diagnostic kits, and healthcare wearables sold by Inflat Bio, the parent company of Inomix.
"In addition, the mileage(BP) saved up on IPC cards provided by Inomix can be used with cash at Inflat Bio or Inomix affiliate stores by being deducted. The pharmaceutical companies and research institutes that purchased the data pay a token(IPC) to the data owner to purchase genome data access rights. Although I have not been able to comment frequently because of the story of genome data, personal medical information also can be owned and managed along with personal genome data based on the Blockchain. At this time, Inomix token(IPC) and mileage(BP) can be used at the affiliated hospitals and research institutes."
- I am curious about the profit model of the Inomix Bio platform.
"The profit of Inomix is made by receiving real money from pharmaceutical companies and research institutes that purchased genome data and selling tokens(IPC) to data buyers. Pharmaceutical companies and research institutes that purchased tokens pay tokens when the genome data provider allows them to access their data. Profits are used to lower sequencing costs to collect more data, develop personalized new drugs, and develop cancer treatments.
- I want to know more about platform security policy.
"Many Koreans have fallen victim to the hacking of the famous coin exchange, and we know that the virtual money market is still placed in a difficult situation due to government regulations as well as hacking. To prepare for this, we are researching global exchanges that security is proven and trusted, and consulting with several exchanges that are already trusted.”
"The security of personal gene information and medical records has been enhanced through various mechanisms of Inomix. First, personal gene information is saved anonymously on several servers in Inomix to prevent centralization of data storage. Personal genome data and phenotypic data are saved in the Blockchain and can also be controlled personally. The address of Inomix is processed as an encryption identifier that is not related to personal information. As a result, personal gene information can not be hacked because shared genome data is encrypted and saved safely using a distributed Blockchain, and all information about donors and providers of personal genome data is processed anonymously."
- I think there are some long-term issues, but you also have many big issues to deal with immediately.
"First of all, starting with 'the Angel Seminar on the Inomix Blockchain' at the 63 Convention Center on October 11, we plan to begin private sales in the second half of this year and pre-sale in the first half of next year. And then we plan to list the shares in the middle of next year. For genome research and bio-industry activation, we need more accurate and standardized data than anything else, and we need to lower sequencing costs and involve a lot of people. By 2020, Inflat Bio aims to collect 100,000 data."
- What are your long-term business goals and plans?
"Inflat Bio is a company that has started with biotechnologists, IT developers, Blockchain experts, and big data experts to study genetic characteristics of each country, especially Korean genetic diseases and develop personalized therapies and big data research. Above all, we want to establish a new standard for protecting genome data. And our long-term goal is to support personalized genetic health record data. We plan to develop a genetic health record system and a personalized treatment system that integrate personal health record data(ERM) and genome information to provide valuable insights.