Whether you’re short on cash or swimming in it, it’s always good to know how to make some extra money in case you ever need it. There are numerous ways to earn extra cash, such as selling old furniture or electronics, or a side job like tutoring, dog walking or Uber. However, soon there won’t be a need to let go of your sofa or give random people rides in your car. The possibility to sell your DNA is on the horizon and it promises to revolutionize an already booming industry.
While the idea of selling your genetic information can be quite off-putting, there’s nothing new about it. This practice is carried out by companies that offer DNA testing services like Ancestry.com, Helix, and 23andMe.com. With the user’s permission, these companies can sell the data to pharmaceutical companies as part of what they call a “research partnership.” Transactions are done in regular non-digital currency and are directed largely to personal gain and growth.
However, new companies like Nebula Genomics are now seeking to expand the market and grow the industry in unprecedented ways. The startup is currently encouraging testing and sharing of DNA through them as they aim to be “gatekeepers” or “bio brokers” for biomedical institutes, universities, and pharmaceutical companies. In the same way we have insurance brokers, stock brokers, and real estate brokers, these bio brokers would be responsible for buying and selling genome data.
As scientists gather research to combat diseases with no known cures, funding and resources are always needed but often in short supply. This “Nebula model” would tackle that problem by encouraging individuals to cash in on their DNA in the form of sales or rentals. However, instead of regular currency, transactions would be done with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Luna Coin, or Litecoin.
How much it will be worth is anyone’s guess right now since potential costs are still being discussed, but not all data will be worth the same. Early numbers estimate that compensation could range from a couple of hundred dollars to close to a thousand, depending on your gender, age, ethnicity, overall health, and other factors.
Money aside, the worry with any personal information is always privacy, especially with hacking, phishing, and other cyber crimes that come along with the advancement of technology. However, Nebula co-founder George Church has assured anonymity and that transactions will be safe. The company has also guaranteed on various occasions that data will only be used for medical advancement and scientific growth and not for business uses.
Nebula is not alone though—Zenome, Luna DNA, DNA Simple and others are after the same goal. With so many interested parties and potential profit, there’s no doubt the genetic market has a future. The question is whether we should trust them—and if so, how much—with so much of our personal information in their hands.