|George Church--Photo by Angela Alberti, courtesy of Harvard|
A new genomics upstart has taken flight to create a new way of mobilizing personal DNA data. Miinome aims to offer a unique personal genetic marketplace, serving as a broker between peoples' genetic info and buyers of the data. And the company has recruited Harvard geneticist George Church as an adviser, giving the young operation some credibility ahead of a beta launch.
As Wired reported, the Minneapolis-based startup wants to capitalize on the intense interest in genetic data from marketers and researchers. Its untested business plan is to offer consumers free genetic analysis and couple their biological information with their data from social media platforms to create a comprehensive personal profile. With a person's permission, Miinome could sell access to portions of her personal profile.
A variety of businesses could see big value in genetic data. For personal genetics providers, part of the trick is to build a large enough data set of peoples' DNA info in order to attract paying partners. Miinome could boost its data set with free sequencing offers to consumers. Personal genomics vet 23andMe recently dropped the price of its DNA analysis to $99 and some people get the analysis for free as part of participating in certain research studies. Genentech is one of 23andMe's paying partners, seeking analysis on breast cancer patients.
As Google ($GOOG) and Facebook ($FB) have done successfully, Miinome wants to offer consumers services at no cost in return for the ability to sell their data. The startup pledged to tightly secure people's data and give them full control over which parties can gain access to anonymous bits from their profiles. Yet the there are all kinds of lingering questions about how Miinome plans to finance the startup costs associated with building its data set and platform for wide public use. In late 2012, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki told FierceBiotech IT that her company was not yet profitable, and weeks later she reeled in $50 million to accelerate growth and develop its technology. Clearly, operating in the personal genomics market isn't cheap.
Miinome CEO Paul Saarinen believes that his company brings something unique to the marketplace, apparently seeing more applications for genetic information than mainstay uses of the data for health and ancestry.
"We believe we can make your genetic information useful every day, not just when you're sick," Saarinen said, as quoted by Wired. "We're the first member-controlled, portable human genomics marketplace."