(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Blackstone

“If Ancestry or its businesses are acquired… we will share your Personal Information with the acquiring or receiving entity”*…

If you’ve never before considered how valuable an asset your DNA might be, you are far behind. Some of the biggest direct-to-consumer DNA sequencing companies are busy monetizing their large-scale genomics databases, with hopes to shape the burgeoning DNA economy and reap its rewards. And if you spit in a cup for one of these companies, your DNA might already be under the corporate control of some of the richest firms on Wall Street.

With their purchase of Ancestry.com late last year, the private equity firm Blackstone now owns the DNA data of 18 million people. And Blackstone is currently ramping up efforts to monetize the data amassed among the companies it owns. But experts say Wall Street firms’ interest in genomics poses new and unforeseen threats, and risks sowing distrust among DNA donors. Without trust, could we miss out on the genome’s real value?

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, private equity firms—which buy up and reshape diverse private companies—have quietly overtaken traditional investment banks like Goldman Sachs as the “dominant players in the financial world,” according to the Financial Times. It’s been a rough tenure so far. While private equity mega-deal hits have made billions for investors, often the companies acquired pay the price, as with high-profile flops including mismanaged music group EMI and bankrupt retailer Toys R Us. The industry has become “the poster child for financial firms that suck value out of the economy,” said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, while introducing an act to Congress aimed at reining in private equity “vampires.

In December the biggest, most dominant private equity company of them all, the Blackstone Group, Inc., which boasts half a trillion dollars in assets under management, made a dramatic entry into the genomics space when it bought a controlling stake in Ancestry.com as part of the deal that valued the genealogy and gene testing company at $4.7 billion. And with that one stroke of the pen, the firm acquired the largest trove of DNA data assembled by any consumer gene tester. If your own DNA sequence is included in this collection, it exists on servers somewhere along with the genomes of 18 million people from at least 30 countries.

Announcing the deal, David Kestnbaum, a senior managing director at Blackstone said he foresees Ancestry growing by “investing behind further data, functionality, and product development.” At the same time, many privacy-concerned watchers had the same question: How does Blackstone aim to monetize Ancestry’s massive database, which includes users’ most sensitive genomic data and family histories?

Those lingering worries were ignited in the final days of 2020 by revelations buried in U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, and unearthed by Bloomberg, that showed Blackstone will begin to “package and sell data” from the companies it acquires as a fresh revenue stream. 

For any entrepreneur or investor in the genomics space who knows the industry needs investment to realize its dramatic potential, the question is vexed. Are deals that bring sensitive data under the control of private equity mega-funds a much-needed path to realizing the industry’s goals? Or do they threaten to derail the rapid progress that consumer gene science is making?…

A Wall Street giant’s big bet on Ancestry.com drives home the financial realities– and the privacy challenges– facing the consumer genomic revolution: “Is Your DNA Data Safe in Blackstone’s Hands?

* from Ancestry.com’s EULA, September 23, 2020 (between Blackstone announcing its plan to buy and the deal completing)

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As we appraise the personal, we might send carefully-deduced birthday greetings to Samuel “Sam” Loyd; he was born on this date in 1841. A chess player, chess composer, puzzle author, and recreational mathematician, he was a member of the Chess Hall of Fame (for both his play and for his exercises, or “problems”). He gained broader posthumous fame when his son published a collection of his mathematical and logic puzzles, Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles after his father’s death.  As readers can see here and here, his puzzles still delight.

Loyd’s most famous puzzle was the 14-15 Puzzle, which he produced in 1878. His original authorship is debated; but in any case, his version created a craze that swept America to such an extent that employers put up notices prohibiting playing the puzzle during office hours.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 31, 2021 at 1:01 am

“The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places”*…

 

Colon, Michigan (the name comes from a pair of nearby lakes shaped like the punctuation mark), a sleepy, one-streetlight town somewhere between Detroit and Chicago proudly bills itself as “The Magic Capital of the World.”  It’s home to around 1,000 residents and holds at least 30 dead magicians [including native son Harry Blackstone, Sr. –The Great Blackstone] in its single small graveyard. The Colon High School mascot is a giant bunny rabbit. Though it lacks the soaring Gothic cathedrals of Hogwarts, it just might be the most magical place in the United States.

For the past 80 years, Colon has hosted Abbott’s Magic Get Together, an annual gathering of several hundred magicians from all over the world who convene for a week of shows, lectures, and trick-jamming. At night, tipsy magicians mingle in bars and restaurants along Colon’s single block of downtown, practicing their craft on passersby. The Get Together is less a conference and more a “family reunion”…

But like any good family reunion, the Get Together has its share of drama. Infighting over the town’s magical heritage has made it harder for aging magicians to cooperate in attracting new members to their community. And modern, everyday technology — not to mention the proliferation of the internet — has made it harder for magic to seem… well, magical.

Still, when you throw hundreds of born-and-bred entertainers into this mecca of illusions, you’re bound to get a party…

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Prepare to be amazed by the story at “Welcome to Colon, Magic Capital of the World.”

* “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl, The Minpins

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As we take one card from the deck, remember it, then slip it back in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1791 that Mozart’s last– and arguably most glorious– opera, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte, K. 620), premiered in Vienna.  Mozart conducted the opening, though he’d fallen ill only weeks before in Prague; he died 10 weeks later.

Hear the overture here.

 

Librettist Emanuel Schikaneder, shown performing in the role of Papageno.

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Playbill from opening night

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 30, 2014 at 1:01 am

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