By Sharon Begley @sxbegle and Damian Garde @damiangarde genomics startup co-founded by genetics pioneer George Church of Harvard emerged from stealth mode on Wednesday, proclaiming that blockchain, the technology that underlies transactions of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, will help people understand their genome, find cures for (unspecified) diseases, and, unlike most existing genomics companies, guarantee that individuals will retain permanent ownership of their DNA data. Nebula Genomics1 will do all of this, and more, through the hottest technologies since fire: Blockchain will insure private untraceable transactions between individuals selling their genomic data and companies buying it, and a cryptocurrency called Nebula tokens will make the whole thing go round.

“It’s a new approach to challenges of genomics, including sequencing costs, genetic data protection, data management, and genomics big data,” Church said. “We have the initial $600,000 investment that we sought,” from an angel investor.

By the end of the week, said co-founder Dennis Grishin, it expects to have raised an additional $1 million. Marrying crypto and blockchain with genomics is only one of the company’s curious features.

Grishin is a graduate student2 in Church’s lab; the other co-founder, Kamal Obbad, is an entrepreneur3 who graduated from Harvard in 2016 and will serve as CEO. Its six advisors include current employees of Veritas, another genome company that Church co-founded; an alumnus of digital currency exchange Coinbase; but also musician D.A.

Wallach, former artist-in-residence at Spotify and an investor in SpaceX, Doctor On Demand, Ripple, Emulate, and Spotify. Nebula, which explains its goals and strategy in a white paper, says it can do better on all counts. One slide in the white paper rates genetics companies including 23andMe, Ancestry, Veritas, and Genos on whether they provide private storage of genetic data, protect the data through blockchain or other form of secure computing, make data buyers such as drug companies subsidize an individual’s sequencing cost, and pay them for data. Read more from…

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