George Church's startup aims to build genomic blockchain project

Nebula Genomics, a blockchain startup spearheaded by Harvard University's George Church, PhD, seeks to help people better understand their genomic data by leveraging cryptocurrency technology, according to STAT.

The company, which emerged Wednesday through the release of a white paper, would work with Veritas Genetics to sequence customers' genomes paid for with $1,000 worth of Nebula tokens. Using blockchain technology, which fosters private, untraceable transactions, they can either store or sell their personal genomic data to companies, like those in the pharmaceutical industry, in exchange for Nebula tokens.

According to the white paper, this approach would reduce sequencing costs since companies would subsidize individuals for the tests, provide more secure data protection, and offer more centralized and efficient data aggregation.

"It's a new approach to challenges of genomics, including sequencing costs, genetic data protection, data management, and genomics big data," Dr. Church said. 

However, since Nebula tokens are only redeemable for genomic sequencing, it's not clear how valuable the tokens customers receive from selling their genetic data will be. While people could sell their Nebula tokens for cash to others looking to have their genomes sequenced, hoping to still make a profit, the price might not hold up since the supply of for-sale tokens will only increase — even as third parties buy the tokens to purchase health data — STAT reports.

The company "will probably be directly and indirectly buying tokens from individuals to resell them to data buyers. Individuals might also use tokens to pay for third-party apps that interpret certain aspects of their genomic data," Nebula co-founder Dennis Grishin told STAT.

Nebula received an initial investment of $600,000 from an angel investor; however, Mr. Grishin expects it will have raised an additional $1 million by the end of the week.

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Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center launches Maternal and Infant Data Hub
Researchers use predictive analytics, EHRs to predict hypertension onset
Intermountain's precision genomics arm begins tests to identify hereditary cancer genes

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