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Possible Global Threat | The Contrarian Views on Release of 500,000 Genome Sequences from UK BioBank

Could the Massive Database Release of 500,000 Genome Sequences from UK BioBank Pose a Global Threat?


When it was announced on Thursday, November 30, 2023 that the entire database of genome sequences and health and medical data of half a million people was going to be released to researchers aiming to develop links amongst health and medical issues and the genetics of the given population I searched for articles surrounding the negative views and issues. To my surprise, I found very little information other than concerns over research and sampling bias. Not one article about the potential threat to world wide safety, no information in regard to the potentials of data breaches leaking the connection of participants and their private health records and no warning of the use of such information in the hands of bad actors and possible use for gain of function research.


After all the information that has been released in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, the public should be more weary than ever about the potential weaponization of research and the health of the entire human race.


If you haven't listened in on my latest podcast episode. I would highly recommend that you do so, we discuss this topic in depth and as promised have provided mentioned resources here.


Research Bias amongst Large Scale Genome Databases


Convenience Sampling:

Convenience Sample Bias occurs when inclusion in a study is based on the ease of access to volunteers. This is not a true random sample of the population as certain sects of society may be ignored because they are maybe harder to reach or may not be willing to participate. Research in regards to health of a population or genetic predispositions may be skewed by such data sets that ignore differing socio-economic, cultural and ethnic groups.


Collider Bias:

Collider Bias occurs when a outcome and exposure both influence a third variable (also known as the collider). This type of bias most often occurs in observational studies very similar to how this BioBank database might be used. A great explanation of Collider Bias can be found at CatalogofBias.org here.


Collider bias was seen very frequently amongst research surrounding COVID-19 as large amounts of public data was observed to attempt to make inferences surrounding the spread, treatment and mortality of the coronavirus pandemic.


Healthy Volunteer Bias:

Healthy Volunteer Bias is very similar to the convenience sampling in that there may be a higher likelihood of healthier volunteers agreeing to take part thus not be a true indicator of the general population overall. This could lead to faulty observations being made. An example being running a study amongst manual laborers would exclude those unfit, or unhealthy enough to perform manual labor and thus conclusions drawn from the study can not implicate other populations as to the conclusions drawn.


Potential Issues Pit Falls of Large Genome Databases such as the UK BioBank


Gain of Function Research:

Gain of Function research is simply a branch of research aimed at genetically altering an organism to enhance biological function. The term became mainstream in the wake of the pandemic. As of 2021, 59 Gain of Function Research Labs around the world that are Biosafety level 4 labs which is the highest level of safety requirements given the research they play with. Everything from man made pathogens to the highest transmittable pathogens which can be transmitted through aerosol. Pathogens such as Ebola and Marburg viruses are studied. The microbes being researched often don't have a vaccine or a cure and come with a hefty price tag if infected, death.


Possible Global Threat | The Contrarian Views on Release of 500,000 Genome Sequences from UK BioBank

Colorado recently approved a gain of function lab researching bats which is slated to open in 2025 in Fort Collins, CO. An announcement that took place during the middle of the largest pandemic ever to sweep the world.


These labs research transmission of viruses amongst populations, and they are literally modifying these pathogens to enhance certain biological features. The more this research is conducted the higher the risk of these pathogens being accidentally released or even worse weaponized.


Data Security:

While this research claims to be transmitted with de-identification, somewhere there is a link between the genetic sequencing, private health and medical records and the individual it belongs to. There are millions of data breaches with an estimated 5.5 billion malware attacks globally every year. Data is not safe regardless of where it is stored. The risk of this information being breached is of high likelihood. We all have received notices of data breaches that risk our social security numbers, credit card numbers, personal information and even sensitive medical records.


Bad Actors:

Movies for decades have portrayed the risk of biological warfare, weaponization of viruses and we have seen it play out on the world stage. There is a prevalence of bad actors around the globe and even in our own country that risk the lives of millions of people. Even governmental terrorism amongst their own people could exist in gain of function research. The genetic information itself can be weaponized against a population and while the next two points have seen there fair share of debate and political posturing there is no assurance that at some point genetic data could be used to influence decision making in the healthcare industry.

Insurance:

Imagine if research stemming from genome research was used to estimate life expectancy, survival in the operating room or likelihood of successfully defeating disease or cancer. Health Insurance and life insurance companies could use that data to determine the cost of acquiring a client. Could we see that private insurance uses this data to make decisions on coverage? Could a life insurance company, utilize this information to deny a policy?


Sure some may argue that there are laws in place to prevent this, but with lobbying those laws could force a reliance on the public sector to provide health insurance and shut out the private companies. Could these laws be lobbied away entirely. 100% Yes.


Death Panels:

A number of election cycles ago, the phrase death panels became popularized. Some may argue that it was a scare tactic for political posturing against a Universal Health System, but we have seen death panels alive and operating in other countries. Decisions made in a public insurance setting that weighs the likelihood of someone's future contribution to society and the cost to treat disease and injuries. When budgetary constraints of public health become a burden, could we see genetic research leading to decisions on whether or not to treat a patient. Perhaps more likely, could genome research be used in determining a patients ability to receive an organ donation and organ transplant.


Public Health Decisions:

There is no doubt that genome research was used to draw conclusions and inferences in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think it is clear now that the repercussions of some of those inferences weighs heavy on the population, and may not have been the righ t steps. Sure we can debate this all day long, but there is no doubt that the use of this genome research will play a large role in public health decisions. Given the bias that is likely to have occurred in the collection of sampling amongst these BioBanks, could this actually be a public health catastrophe?


Lack of Opt-Out of use of Personal Genetic Data

To the best of my knowledge no participant can opt-out of how there genetic data is used. Research that uses this large scale database may go beyond what individuals deem necessary, moral or even ethical. Research may hinder the ability to truly live out our own worldview if we allow our data into these biobanks. That is one of many risks that I am not willing to take as for me it is a matter of the heart and soul.


Where do we go from here?

I'm not going to deny that some revolutionary research may stem from the efforts of researchers to create these large genome databases. We could see extraordinary medical gains. We may even get a glimpse further into the Wonderful Creation of God. However there are still many concerns. You will be asked to join one of these biobanks, it is already happening in Colorado and across the country and if you are reading this I strongly suggest that you seek the Holy Spirit in this matter, pray and make informed decisions.


Research:












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