Blockchain Technology is Having a Massive Impact on the Genomics Industry

TheMerkle DNA Data Blockchain

Although blockchain has become almost synonymous with cryptocurrency, they are, in fact, very different. Cryptocurrency are digital assets, like Bitcoin, that serve as a medium of exchange to secure financial transactions. The past few years have been a very exciting time for many traders as fortunes were made and lost before one could blink. Blockchain technology, on the other hand, is changing the world in a very different way than cryptocurrency. Many companies in all sorts of different industries are attempting to integrate blockchain technology into their daily operations in an effort to radically transform their respective fields. One industry that appears to be gaining significant traction thanks to the implementation of blockchain technology is the genomic data industry.

Growth of Genomics

In order to determine what kind of impact blockchain technology can have on a particular industry, it’s important to find out what kind of demand exists for the technology. In this case, the demand is significant. According to a report published by Research and Markets, the global Genomics industry is projected to reach a total market size of approximately $24 billion by 2022. In 2017, the industry generated just under $15 billion in revenue.

The reasons for the expected genomics boom include a heightened interest in research studies, more start-up companies entering the market, rising importance of focus personalized medicine, venture capital interest, and government grants. Although the future is never certain, 23andMe is a great example of the potential that the industry has.

23andMe is a testing company that focuses on the collection, analyzation, and synthesizing of genomic data into personalized reports. The reports include analysis on ancestry and genetic predisposition to health risks based on unique genetic variants. Roughly two years ago, the company raised $250 million through a capital raise round led by Sequoia Capital. The capital raise meant that 23andMe was valued at approximately $1.75 billion.

Problems with Current DNA Testing Companies

Although 23andMe is doing wonderful things for the industry, the company has faced a bit of backlash over the way it handles data privacy. In June 2018, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it was investigating several well-known DNA testing companies like 23andMe and over how the companies handle personal information and how that information is shared with third parties.

Unfortunately, when customers submit their data for testing, they have to agree (knowingly or not) that their data can be sold in the name of science. Genomic data is the most valuable data that we, as humans, own. And while 23andMe is able to sell that data to interested parties for millions of dollars, the customers receive nothing.

So not only is privacy being violated, but customers are also being short changed on the financial end. Given the unfairness of that, and the growing demand for this particular type of data, several promising start-ups decided to put their entrepreneurial skills to the test to protect users’ privacy and provide a financial incentive for sharing the data with researchers.

Blockchain’s Impact

One of the best things about blockchain technology is that is being used by companies of all different sizes and maturity levels. From industry giants like Illumina and 23andMe to startups like Encrypgen (DNA), Luna DNA, and Nebula Genomics.

Late last year, Encrypgen announced the launch of the world’s first genomic data platforms called the Gene-Chain. This platform allows consumers to upload and securely store their genomic data on the Gene-Chain. If a user wants, they can opt to sell their data to researchers in exchange for a small fee. Researchers (data buyers) will be able to use their DNA tokens to purchase the data directly from the consumers.

Luna DNA is another promising company that is prioritizing data privacy. In December 2018, the company’s DNA platform was qualified by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission to offer shares of ownership to its health data contributors. There are a few major differences between Luna DNA and Encrypgen, however. Encrypgen users will receive a direct and straight payment from researchers in the form of DNA tokens. Users have the option of converting those tokens directly to BTC or FIAT, or they can hold the tokens in the hopes of token price appreciation. Additionally, while Encrypgen’s Gene-Chain is a fully functional platform with more than 130 data transactions thus far, Luna DNA is still working on an alpha version.

Lastly, Nebula Genomics was founded by the one of the world’s leading geneticists, Dr. George Church. Dr. Church is known as the father of synthetic biology and has founded many companies over the course of his long and distinguished careers. In fact, Dr. Church was recently interviewed on 60 Minutes for his work on reviving woolly mammoths using ancient DNA. In August 2018, Nebula announced that it had raised a $4.3 million seed round. The capital should serve useful as the company continues to work hard to finalize an alpha version of its genomic platform.

Concluding Thoughts

Blockchain technology is having a significant impact on the advancement of industries all over the world. Some industries, such as genomics, are growing at unprecedented levels thanks to agile start-ups that are implementing blockchain technology from the start. Thanks to Encrypgen, Luna DNA, and Nebula, researchers may soon have access to data that help solve some of the biggest medical mysteries facing the scientific community.


Publication date: 
05/22/2019 - 04:18