Apple is collaborating with a couple of U.S. researcher facilities to create apps that gather and organize consumers’ DNA data, a new report says.
The report, from MIT’s Technology Review, says the apps will “offer some iPhone owners the chance to get their DNA tested, many of them for the first time, according to people familiar with the plans.”
The new apps are based on Apple’s ResearchKit, a data-integration platform designed to collect infomartion from consumer devices and package it for health research use. Hospitals and other researchers can connect to the ResearchKit platform to quickly gather large research samples, the theory goes.
Indeed, Apple has already released five ResearchKit-based apps, and they gathered thousands of users within a few days.
The next step is to begin gathering DNA data from app users. But since you need a physical sample to create the DNA data in the first place, Apple is put in the odd position of urging app users to send in a saliva sample.
The sample wouldn’t be sent to Apple, however, but rather to a gene sequencing center at either the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) or Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
The data would be maintained by scientists within the ResearchKit cloud, and certain findings could appear directly on consumers’ iPhones.
Apple and its research partners will have to tread very lightly here, being careful not to present and DNA-derived data that could be viewed as “diagnostic.” This is exactly how 23andMe got in trouble with the Food and Drug Administration in late 2013.
One of Technology Review‘s sources said Apple hopes to announce the new DNA apps at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June.
Apple didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment this afternoon.