A blockchain startup, Nebula Genomics, is offering to analyze your DNA for free. They’ll record the data on a blockchain and provide you with feedback. It’s up to you whether or not you’re willing to share your information with researchers. But if you do, they will reward you.
The co-founder of Nebula is George Church, Harvard Medical School and MIT professor. He’s been an expert in genetics for over 40 years, conducting research at the National Institute of Health. He’s perhaps most famous for successfully copying woolly mammoth DNA. His new company officially launched on Wednesday. It will benefit both the users who wish to obtain information about their DNA, and researchers, for whom the data alone is quite valuable.
Genome analysis companies, such as 23andMe and Helix, have been around for years
But like many blockchain startups, Nebula Genomics seeks to scale the current systems. As you may know, these companies charge $100-$200 for their services. Additionally, they automatically sell your data to other companies. In short, you are paying to give away extremely valuable information, which seems a little backwards.
Nebula customers are compensated in “Nebula credits”
While you cannot exchange the credits for a cash value, you can use them within the Nebula system to purchase useful information. For instance, you can get an analysis about how susceptible you may be to certain diseases. You are also able to learn which drugs may be most effective for you based on your genes. Finally, if some rare genetic quality is present in your DNA that is of interest to researchers, they may even offer to pay you, according to Church.
Obviously, this benefit works both ways. Researchers in turn can help use this DNA data to improve their ability to analyze genes and their relation to health issues. And one of the hopes is that since Nebula’s services are free, more people will be inclined to participate. Church also points out that Nebula is more comprehensive than other DNA genetic analysis, since it covers the full genome sequence, instead of just genotyping.
Transparency regarding the DNA use is unclear
In other words, this project is very much in the spirit of blockchain technology and decentralization. However, it is unclear where exactly your data goes, and who uses it for what…..
Also, it doesn’t as if the Nebula credits will have value as a token outside the specific network services.
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