Nebula Genomics, a company that operates using blockchain technology, wants to pay you in crypto for sharing your personal genomic data. The startup has raised $4.3 million from ten investors to make the new DNA marketplace a reality.
A Protocol for the Genomics Age
Nebula Genomics calls itself “a protocol for the Genomics Age” and aims to create a secure marketplace for the genomes of human beings. It wants to help meet the research industry’s high demand for genomic data so that diseases can be better understood and drugs can be made to treat them. Nebula will “eliminate the middleman,” making it easy and less costly to share this data with companies, researchers, and drugmakers who want to get their hands on this valuable data.
George Church, geneticist and co-founder of Nebula Genomics, said in an interview with Bloomberg, “Hopefully this will result in people not paying to get their genome and instead being paid for their genome.” Church is a professor at Harvard Medical School and MIT and has been called the “Father of synthetic biology”. Church was also involved in the development of Crispr technology and the Personal Genome Project.
As an incentive, Nebula’s very own cryptocurrency, called “Nebula tokens”, will be used to compensate users for uploading their data on their platform. Nebula Genomics will sell the tokens to data buyers in exchange for fiat money.
They say they want to “empower people to own their personal genomic data” but their endeavor raises concerns, particularly related to the security of personal information. In order to have personal genomic and phenotypic data stored on the Nebula network, it will need to be secure and who is given access to it must be tightly controlled.
To address these needs, Nebula states in its whitepaper that all shared data will be encrypted and analyzed using Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) and homomorphic encryption. Those who decide to sell their data will be “pseudo-anonymous” both during the actual sharing process and when they receive payment. They also promise “data buyers never see personal genomic data in plaintext”, and they will verify all companies who purchase the data, requiring them to be fully transparent about who they are.
Would you sell your DNA to help out science? Please comment below.