Collecting DNA data is fast-growing market. Companies like 23andMe and Helix are offering you to tell you about your health and ancestry in return for a cotton swab of your DNA. But you have to pay them to get that kind of information — in most instances just shy of $100.
But that kind of data can be immensely valuable — not just to you, but to the company collecting it as well.
A just-launched startup called Nebula Genomics wants to flip that value proposition on its head by offering you a reward in the form of “Nebula credits,” which are stored on the blockchain.
Nebula, which we’ve reported on previously, was co-founded by genetics heavyweight George Church — yes, the guy who wants to resurrect the woolly mammoth. The idea is straightforward: the company sequences your entire genome for free, and stores all that data on a blockchain.
You can then decide where and when your genomic data is shared with other companies or research institutes. The more you share your data, the more Nebula credits you get. You can provide information about your medical history for even more credits.
That’s different from other companies like 23andme, which will ask for your consent to share your anonymous genomic data with third parties.
Unfortunately, the value of those Nebula credits is iffy. You can’t exchange it for fiat currencies, and according to New Scientist, Nebula Genomics has yet to decide whether it will allow cash transactions at all.
You can pay Nebula with tokens for it to analyze your genomic data and tell you whether you’re at risk of developing various diseases.
There’s inherent value to genomic data, and offering some kind of value for sequencing and storing it makes a lot of sense. But when that value is practically worthless in the real world, it’ll be difficult to convince people to share their data.
READ MORE: A new DNA sequencing service wants to reward you for sharing your data [New Scientist]
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