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Blockchain genomics startup to begin pilot project with Merck's subsidiary EMD Serono on lung cancer patient

Wed, 12 Jun 2019, 09:55 am UTC

Blockchain-enabled genome sequencing startup Nebula Genomics has inked its first pharma partnership with Merck KGaA’s EMD Serono.

The goal of this pilot program is to help EMD Serono, the biopharmaceutical arm of Merck KGaA - a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Germany, enhance research efforts by supporting its researchers as they develop new medicines. Under the partnership, EMD Serono's scientists will get access to Nebula’s network of anonymized genome data to better understand the cause of diseases.

The project will recruit lung cancer patients, offering a free high-coverage germline and tumor whole-genome sequencing. In exchange, participants will have access to their genomic data, which can be used to guide patients to decide on treatment options.

When we launched Nebula Genomics last year, we announced our goal to make personal genome sequencing free. Since then we provided low-coverage whole-genome sequencing to hundreds of people free of charge,” the press release stated.

In order to offer free sequencing to even more people, in particular, the more expensive high-coverage whole-genome sequencing, we have established collaborations with pharma and biotech companies that will sponsor sequencing in exchange for access to genomic data. Our collaboration with EMD Serono is the first validation of our model for sponsored sequencing.”

Although genomics has the potential to transform the health industry, slow data generation, data fragmentation, and inefficient consent management hinder researchers in realizing its full potential.

To address these obstacles, Nebula, a startup spun out of a Harvard Medical School laboratory, has developed a blockchain-based network that will connect patients and consumers with researchers, incentivizing data sharing by making sure that fair compensation, transparency, and security are provided.

Earlier this year, enterprise software company SAP revealed it will launch a blockchain-based solution that will help to track and authenticate pharmaceutical packaging returned from hospitals and pharmacies to wholesalers before products are resold.

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