Nebula Genomics

  • Cryptoasset Report
  • October 2, 2018

Nebula Genomics is a platform built on Blockstack for people to sequence, store, and sell their genomics data.


Nebula Genomics aims to offer a platform built on Blockstack for people to sequence, store, and sell their genomics data. The cost of sequencing one’s personal genome has been steadily dropping over the past two decades and could reach as low as $100, even while using more advanced sequencing techniques than those available on the existing consumer market. This will lead to an explosion of genomic data, and with it, a new frontier of research and medicine. At present, the prevailing model for this involves intermediaries, like 23andme or, sequencing individual genome data and reselling it to interested companies with weak guarantees of privacy. Nebula Genomics hopes to offer an array of technologies permitting users to store their own raw genomics data, get these data processed securely in a distributed computing environment, collect and store phenotype data (observable characteristics) that would make associated genomics data much more valuable, and ultimately sell access to the data to companies and academic institutions. They propose to build this ecosystem on top of Blockstack, ultimately built on top of Ethereum. The project is lead by acclaimed Harvard Genomics Professor Dr. George Church and several other researchers.

Protocol Details

In the proposed Nebula Genomics ecosystem, users would retain access to and ownership of their own raw genomics data and can store these on local devices, in the cloud, on IPFS, or any other medium. Nebula Genomics itself would serve as the primary sequencer to produce raw genomics data, though users could also bring raw data to the network from another processor. The Blockstack protocol would index the locations of these data throughout the network and control third-party access; Blockstack then stores a hash of its data to the Ethereum network. The Nebula Genomics ecosystem would facilitate discovery of genomics data available for sale using smart contract-based surveys so that buyers, such as pharmaceutical companies, could both find who in the network has specific genomic and other data available and potentially incentivize users to add relevant data.

To ease data transfer and facilitate distributed computation, the network would impose a set of data standards particularly relevant to genomics data, which can take up to 200 GB even in its raw form. Nebula also proposes a method of secure trustless computation that would allow genomics data buyers to ultimately access only the part of the genomics data they are interested in, without revealing *all* the underlying raw genomics data. Users could also utilize this secure computation through third-party applications built on the network, such as by granting an app limited access to genomics data for purposes of providing daily health tips. Nebula Genomics would serve as a KYC provider to verify the identity of data buyers, partly for trust and partly to help investigate the resale of data off-chain, which would violate purchase agreements.

Asset Details

The Nebula token is proposed as the sole means of payment for genomics data and genomics data computation. Data buyers would purchase tokens on the open market, then pay users for their genomics data. Users also pay for sequencing and secure remote computation using tokens. Nebula also mentions a possibility that data buyers could pay for sequencing on behalf of users. The token might also be used in surveys. At time of writing, token supply information had not been finalized and announced.