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To Protect Patented Genes, DARPA Wants a Security System that Records Genomic Changes

• Clay Dillow via

Here at PopSci we love a good broad agency announcement from DARPA (that’s where they ask the private sector to do something technologically outrageous), but even next to the flying Humvees, the weather manipulation, the cyborg beetles, and the “hundred-year starships,” this one, we have to say, is WAY out there. DARPA wants a genetic security system that’s built into the genome that can monitor for and report on changes to an organism’s genetic makeup.

Or--to borrow Danger Room's metaphor--DARPA wants a “track changes” feature for genomes like the one that tracks edits in a Word document, a technology that will record and report any modification to a genome. They call it Chronicle of Lineage Indicative of Origins, or CLIO. We’re calling it ambitious.

The more important question is: how? DARPA offers the usual vague suggestions, like “possibly utilizing a cryptographical or complex mathematical approach.” Complex doesn’t sound like the half of it. Then again, it’s DARPA’s function to propose seemingly-impossible problems like this. As the personal genomics revolution presses forward, we all someday might not only have copies of our entire genomes, but we may have them password-protected as well.

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