Innovation That Matters

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Genetics startup offers secure way to sell users genomic data

Sport & Fitness

A genetics tech company uses blockchain and cryptocurrency to allow people to securely make a profit from their genetic data.

Currently, pharma companies are spending billions each year to acquire the genomic data they need to identify the causes of diseases and develop new medications and treatments. However, the small amount of data available hinders the growth of this market. This is because many people are reluctant to sell access to their genetic information out of concerns over their privacy. Making progress on developing new drugs depends on acquiring genomic data, which means convincing more people to share their DNA. Now, Nebula Genomics, in partnership with Veritas, has developed a way to use blockchain technology to offer customers a way to profit from selling their genetic data.

On the Nebula platform, customers can choose whether or not to sell their genetic data. Those opting to sell the data are connected directly to potential buyers such as biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Using blockchain technology, the data is secure. Blockchain technology protects the identity of the sellers and gives them control over who can access their genetic data. Sellers receive payment in a cryptocurrency called ‘Nebula tokens’. The Nebula model cuts out the middleman to connect buyers and sellers directly. The future of cryptocurrency is unclear, especially following recent moves by US and UK banks to ban transactions using cryptocurrency. However, Nebula is the only testing company currently offering to compensate the sellers of genetic information directly.

At Springwise, we have seen the rapid rise in the number of personal genomics start-ups in the last few years – highlighting start-ups such as myGenome and Knome. With the cost of genomic sequencing expected to decrease from around USD 1,000 today to an estimated USD 100 in a few years’ time, Nebula’s model may make sound economic sense. It could also allow more rapid detection of rare disease genes and the development of new drugs. How else might companies convince more people to sequence and sell their genetic data?




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