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This startup will sequence your entire genome for free — but there’s a catch

Want to get your DNA sequenced, but don’t want to shell out the hundred bucks or so you’d have to pay companies such as 23andMe and Helix? No problem: A new startup called Nebula Genomics offers you the opportunity to have it done for free.

To qualify for a free genome sequence, you’ll have to provide some information about your health, which is then shared with researchers, in addition to your DNA data. In exchange for this information — which is kept anonymous — they then cover the cost of the genome sequencing. The hope is to gather enough genetic data to develop new drugs and other treatments for solving a range of diseases. All data is stored on the blockchain, and users get to decide exactly what information is shared with companies or other research institutes. You can also pay $99 upfront without having to answer additional questions.

“We are using next-generation sequencing technology,” Dennis Grishin, the company’s chief science officer, told Digital Trends. “This enables us to generate thousands of times more data from a genome than most of our competitors. We also enable our users to fully control their genomic data and we inform them when a researcher requests access. Our users have the opportunity to get sequenced for free by getting matched with a researcher who wants to access their genomic data.”

So we’re talking better technology for generating genomic data, control over our genomic data, and the opportunity to get sequenced for free? If you’re in the market for a genome sequencing, that sounds like quite the deal.

Nebula Genomics was co-founded by Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Church is the geneticist behind the plan to bring back the woolly mammoth using modern-day technology.

“George’s lab has contributed to the development of next-generation sequencing technology that made personal genome sequencing affordable,” Grishin said. “We started Nebula Genomics to bring the costs of personal genome sequencing down to zero and to address the issues of genomic data ownership and privacy. Our mission is to achieve mass adoption of personal genome sequencing, which would lead to a genomic revolution that would transform biomedical research and health care.”

For more information on the service offered by Nebula Genomics, you can visit the company’s website.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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