What happens when a genome database is breached?

Michelle Meas

Michelle Meas

Speaker Bio

Michelle is a student researcher in the College of Microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she can often be found mutating things and working on her thesis. She is studying Molecular/Cellular Biology with a focus in neuroscience and genetics. She is the Research Director of the BioHacking Village, with her main interests being medicine, bioweaponry, and neuromodulation. Her former research includes studies on epigenetics in relation to Alzheimer’s Disease at Northwestern University, metabolic pathway studies, and pathological meta-analyses of epidemic outbreaks. In her spare time she enjoys making art, cooking, eating, memes, and Staying Up Too Late™.


DNA sequencing has gotten exponentially cheaper since its invention, and is rapidly becoming a popular consumer good, given as Christmas presents and advertised on Facebook. However, the companies that perform this sequencing are effectively unregulated, and what they do with the mountains of data accumulated in this process is hardly transparent. This talk will begin with an overview of gene sequencing technology, then discuss the data actually collected by many popular companies. The talk will conclude with a discussion of how this data could be weaponized by bad actors after a data breach, both now and going forwards.