Church’s blockchain startup allies with health data marketplace

Longenesis CSO Alex Zhavoronkov (left) with Nebula co-founders George Church and Dennis Grishin. (Longenesis)

George Church’s blockchain startup Nebula Genomics has partnered with Longenesis. The partners will build Longenesis’ blockchain-enabled longitudinal health data platform into Nebula’s emerging genomics-focused offering.

Nebula and Longenesis are coming at slightly different problems from a similar angle. Longenesis is a partnership between Bitcoin miner Bitfury and AI-enabled drug discovery shop Insilico Medicine that set out to create a decentralized marketplace for health data. Users would upload their data, sell access to it and receive the digital currency LifePounds in return. Church co-founded Nebula to work on a similar model focused on genomics. 

The exclusive partnership formed by the companies positions Nebula to incorporate Longenesis’ platform into its own system. Longenesis’ developers will help out with the incorporation and with development of the Nebula platform. The end goal is to have a platform that provides researchers with access to a wide range of data.

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Longenesis was heading in that direction before teaming up with Nebula. But the startup thinks it can achieve more with Nebula than by continuing solo.

“We decided to pursue this partnership to combine the technical and management resources and create the most credible venture in this turbulent space,” Longenesis CSO Alex Zhavoronkov, Ph.D., said in an emailed statement.

The credibility piece is critical. Interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies has surged, creating the sort of gold rush mentality seen during the dot-com bubble. On one level, this is a boon for startups in the sector. But the benefits startups reap from the interest of investors and other groups is offset by the challenge of differentiating themselves from companies trying to make a quick buck using little more than buzzwords. Zhavoronkov thinks very few companies have the capabilities to deliver on the hype.

“In my opinion, 99% of the companies in this space either do not know what they are doing, defrauding the investors or do not have a solid technical solution,” the CEO said.

The hope is that the pooled resources of Longenesis and Nebula will be enough to demonstrate that the companies are part of the 1% that can deliver on the healthcare potential of blockchain.