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19 February 2018

Harvard traces route to Nebula Genomics

Nebula Genomics aims to launch a genomics platform that will let users securely monetise their personal data and gain medical insights.

Author: Callum Cyrus, reporter

Nebula Genomics, a new US-based genomics spinout of Harvard University, is set to launch a platform for users to earn cryptocurrency in exchange for letting pharmaceutical firms use their data, according to Technology Review.

The company has released a white paper into the technology, which will offer affordable genome sequencing that can establish a person’s susceptibility to certain diseases. The platform will license anonymised records to medical research firms.

Users will receive cryptocurrency, dubbed Nebula tokens, in exchange for providing their genomic data, while a blockchain system will secure data transaction records to protect data ownership rights.

Nebula hopes to give pharmaceutical and biotech companies access to a more cost-effective source of genomics than traditional intermediaries such as academic institutions or mainstream genetic testing services.  

The service is based on research by George Church, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical Centre, along with Harvard student Dennis Grishin and alumnus Kamal Obbad, who specialise in genetics and neurobiology respectively.

The platform is expected to open in the coming months. Nebula has not disclosed any equity funding yet, though press reports suggest the spinout may launch an initial coin offering.

Obbad added: “The pitch to the average person is that you are not just monetising your genetic data. We are also going to provide you with insights, similar to what [genetic testing services] 23andMe and do.”

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