Harvard genetics engineer George Church is clearly fascinated by blockchain technology. As the founder of Nebula Genomics, Church is seeking to use its power to further cement mankind’s legacy and improve his chances of survival by allowing people to share their personal genome “for research purposes” – and then be paid in digital currency for their participation.
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Why Learning About Genes is Important
By studying genes, scientists can map out the kinks in man’s DNA chain to develop natural cures for some of the world’s deadliest diseases. That’s the real benefit at stake, no doubt …
But another big one is the fact that it’s getting much easier (and cheaper) to code one’s DNA. The first genome sequence took place roughly 17 years ago for the ridiculously high price of nearly $3 billion USD. Today, that price has gone down to less than $1,000, and Church feels that number could slide again to just under $100 in the next few years.
Prospects for a Bright Future
The white paper describing Nebula Genomics’ business model explains:
“Personal genome sequencing will soon be widely adopted as it enables better diagnoses, disease prevention, and personalized therapies. Furthermore, if genomic data is shared with researchers, the causes of many diseases will be identified, and new drugs developed. These opportunities are creating genomic data markets worth billions.”
The company is designed to compete with similar enterprises like Ancestry.com and 23andMe of Silicon Valley. Per Nebula’s white paper, these companies use “microarray-based genotyping for their genetics tests,” which Church describes as “outdated” and “significantly less powerful alternatives to DNA sequencing.”
The process involves identifying a set number of single letters within specific human genome structures – approximately 600,000 or less. According to Church, the readings are not entirely accurate as an entire genome sequence contains nearly seven billion letters.
Changing an Old System
Nebula Genomics is looking to use the blockchain to store genome sequences privately. Middlemen, once in charge of collecting this information from volunteers, are inherently eliminated from the equation, and only those offering their genomic data will have access to it. Data buyers are required to be fully transparent so individuals participating in the process can know exactly who they’re giving access to.
After sharing their data, participants will be paid in Nebula tokens, the company’s official virtual currency. They can then sell their coins for cash to others looking to have their genome sequences recorded and privatized.
Would you share your genomic data for a few digital assets? Post your comments below.
Images via Pixabay, Harvard, Nebula Genomics