August 30, 2018
Nebula Genomics announced that it has raised $4.3M million in seed financing with participation from 10 leading venture capital firms. The funds will support the company’s mission to usher in the era of personal genome sequencing by creating a trusted, secure, and decentralized marketplace for genomic data. The company also has forged a partnership with Veritas Genetics, the leading whole genome sequencing and interpretation company, that will connect the Nebula marketplace to Veritas’ Arvados open-source software platform.
This financing round includes many of the best-known venture firms investing in innovative entrepreneurs in genomics and blockchain. Investors include Khosla Ventures, Arch Venture Partners, Fenbushi Capital, Mayfield, F-Prime Capital Partners, Great Point Ventures, Windham Venture Partners, Hemi Ventures, Mirae Asset, Hikma Ventures and Heartbeat Labs.
“As a people-first firm and early-stage investor, we always begin with the entrepreneur as our first step,” said Tim Chang of Mayfield. “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. 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.”
The coming genomic age holds immense promise for the development of personalized medicine, improving patient outcomes, and improving the quality of human life. To realize that potential, researchers need streamlined access to the individual genomes of millions or billions of people — individuals who are reluctant to share their genomes today because of concerns over privacy, trust, control and cost. Nebula’s marketplace will address those concerns directly, using blockchain and other technologies to put consumers in control of their genomic data, as well as by compensating individuals directly for the use of their data. That will encourage an ever-growing number of consumers to participate in the marketplace and create an essential resource for advances in research.
“Our investors, along with Veritas, share our commitment to lowering access barriers to genomic data, and solving one of the primary roadblocks preventing personalized medicine becoming a reality today,” said Kamal Obbad, CEO & co-founder of Nebula Genomics. “With this funding we are moving closer to a new age in personalized medicine.”
“As genome sequencing inches towards mass adoption, security and privacy concerns remain core barriers,” said Robert Nelsen, managing director of Arch Venture Partners, whose past investments included Illumina and GRAIL. “Nebula’s team has architected a unique decentralized system that protects data while still making it easily accessible for researchers.”
The partnership with Veritas enables the Nebula marketplace to build upon the existing advantages of the open-source software platform Arvados. Developed by Veritas, Arvados is the most-widely used open-source platform for storing, sharing and analyzing genomic data – currently exceeding 20 petabytes of data. It is used globally by researchers, pharmaceutical companies and research institutions.
One of the unique features of the federated Arvados platform is that it allows consented data to be queried regardless the data’s location. Therefore, various data sets can be physically stored and managed according to local rules and regulations, especially those concerning privacy and protection. The Nebula marketplace will leverage this federation to enable individuals and institutions to exchange and trade access to the data with the benefits of blockchain-based privacy and smart contracts.
“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.”
An innovative health data marketplace
Nebula’s talent and deep experience in adapting technologies for the blockchain, combined with Veritas’ genomic expertise and platform, will enable the creation of a large and trusted genomic and health data marketplace to accelerate genomic data growth and facilitate genomic data access. Data buyers will subsidize the cost of genome sequencing and interpretation, providing a strong incentive for consumers to participate.
Once their genome is sequenced, consumers will store and manage their own data via Arvados, an open source distributed biomedical data storage and computing platform widely used by researchers in industry and at academic institutions. Consumers will be able to choose how much and with whom their data is shared, with all the security and transparency advantages offered by blockchain.
In the Nebula marketplace consumers for the first time can receive compensation for their health data via a cryptocurrency token-based payment system created by Nebula Genomics. This directly addresses consumer concerns over the practice of medical and genomic data brokers to sell personal health data to third parties.
“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,” added Dennis Grishin, CSO & co-founder of Nebula Genomics.
About Nebula Genomics
Nebula Genomics is a human genome sequencing and health big data company on a mission to usher in the era of genomic sequencing by building a large and trusted genomic and health data marketplace for consumers, researchers and the medical community. Using blockchain to ensure that consumers maintain control of their data and are compensated for its use, the Nebula marketplace will aggregate a critical mass of rich genetic information that researchers can analyze in order to accelerate drug development, streamline clinical trials, and usher in the era of truly personalized medicine. The company was founded by Harvard genomics pioneer George Church, along with Harvard researchers Dennis Grishin and Kamal Obbad. Founded in 2017, Nebula Genomics has offices in San Francisco, CA and Boston, MA and is backed by investors including Khosla Ventures, Arch Venture Partners, Fenbushi Capital, Mayfield, F-Prime Capital Partners, Great Point Ventures, Windham Venture Partners, Hemi Ventures, Mirae Asset, Hikma Ventures and Heartbeat Labs. For more information, follow @NebulaGenomics on Twitter and Facebook or visit nebula.org.
About Veritas Genetics
Veritas is The Genome Company. We screen the majority of an individual’s DNA through whole genome sequencing and interpretation to provide insights on inherited disease risks, carrier status, drug sensitivities, traits and ancestry. Our mission is to help people understand their genetics and make more informed health and lifestyle decisions with the involvement of their physician and access to skilled genetic counselors. Co-founded in 2014 by George Church and leading scientists from the Personal Genome Project at Harvard Medical School, Veritas operates globally from its offices in the U.S., Europe and China. The company has been recognized twice by MIT Technology Review as one of the 50 Smartest Companies in 2016 and 2017, by Fast Company as one of the Most Innovative Companies in the World in 2018, and by CNBC as a 2018 Disruptor 50 Company. For more information, follow @VeritasGenetics on Facebook and Twitter or visit veritasgenetics.com. For more information on Arvados, visit arvados.org