Yesterday startup Nebula Genomics announced it raised a $4.3 million seed round from ten venture capital firms. The VCs include Khosla, Fenbushi Capital, and Mayfield.
Nebula aims to create a trusted, secure, and decentralized marketplace for genomic data. There are numerous companies targeting genomics and blockchain, but Nebula has the highest profile and a credible team.
“Kamal and Dennis have a unique vision of leveraging blockchain to enable consumer genetic sequencing at scale, and the involvement of genomics pioneer George Church makes this a dream team,” said Mayfield’s Tim Chang. “When you combine that with Nebula’s unique business model and incentive design, we believe the company can grow into a leading pioneer of the genomics age.”
Veritas Genetics deal
Simultaneously the company announced a deal with Veritas Genetics which is involved in whole genome sequencing. The partnership enables the Nebula marketplace to connect with Veritas’ Arvados open-source software platform. Arvados is the most widely used system for storing, sharing and analyzing genomic data. Plus the platform enables data to be queried regardless of location. Hence, it can be stored in compliance with local regulations.
After a genome is sequenced, it will be stored using Arvados. Nebula will enable consumers to choose how much and with whom their data is shared. This will happen in a secure but transparent way. The transparency relates to with whom the information was shared, the data itself private.
“Privacy and security issues are on everyone’s mind, and blockchain is a promising way to address both,” said Mirza Cifric, CEO of Veritas Genetics. “As our own database grows to many petabytes, together with the Nebula team we are taking the lead in our industry to protect the privacy of consumers while enabling them to participate in research and benefit from the blockchain-based marketplace Nebula is building.”
Data buyers will compensate consumers with token-based payments. In the statement Nebula says: “This directly addresses consumer concerns over the practice of medical and genomic data brokers to sell personal health data to third parties.” This could be a reference to 23andme’s recent data sharing deal with Glaxo.
Dennis Grishin, CSO & co-founder of Nebula Genomics, said: “Compared to centralized databases, Nebula’s decentralized and federated architecture will help address privacy concerns and incentivize data sharing. Our goal is to create a data flow that will accelerate medical research and catalyze a transformation of health care.”
Genomics promises more personalized medicines, better diagnoses, improved patient outcomes, and ultimately an enhanced quality of life. Consumers might share information to discover ancestry, but there’s a need for large volumes of data for research. However, individuals have concerns over privacy, trust, control, and cost.
Nebula plans to address these challenges by giving consumers control over their genomic data and compensating them for its use.
“As genome sequencing inches towards mass adoption, security and privacy concerns remain core barriers,” said Robert Nelsen, managing director of Arch Venture Partners. “Nebula’s team has architected a unique decentralized system that protects data while still making it easily accessible for researchers.”
Elsewhere Ledger Insights explores the non-monetary ways to incentivize genomic data sharing.
Check back shortly for industry insider thinking about secure ways to share all types of medical data.
If you’re interested in learning more about Blockchain and Pharma Supply Chain, Hanson Wade is running a conference in Boston in October. The link includes a 10% ticket discount. We’ve found Hanson Wade events have strong speakers, hardly any sponsor promotional content, and provide excellent networking opportunities.