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Zoom on LunaDNA: How sharing your DNA can help science

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If you’re one of the people who has taken a DNA test through one of the many companies that offer this service, you will probably have been fascinated by the insights that it gave you into your health and ancestry. But what if there was something more that you could do with your DNA data? LunaDNA is offering just that. With them, you can use your DNA data and your health data to help with medical research and, at the same time, make money for yourself. If that sounds too good to be true, let’s learn more about how the Luna DNA model works.

Who is LunaDNA?

LunaDNA is a San Diego startup working in DNA research. CEO Bob Kain and President Dawn Barry wanted to create a whole new way of using the DNA data supplied by people to DNA testing companies. Specifically, they aimed to ensure that genomic databases weren’t the only ones who would profit from sharing DNA.

With this in mind, they created LunaDNA with the help of company CFO David Lewis, who made a system that worked to transfer ownership of DNA data back to the people who supplied it.

LunaDNA has received funding from some top venture capital funds, including Illumina Ventures, to make a robust and profitable business model. They are also backed by genetic health research activists and researchers, such as the Genetic Alliance.

How does LunaDNA work?

LunaDNA doesn’t do its DNA testing. Instead, you submit the raw genomic data obtained from DNA testing through another company. They accept data from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, and FamilyTree DNA. You also won’t receive an ancestry or health report from them after submitting your data.

Instead, you will receive a share in the company when you sign up for an account and submit your genetic data. By providing people with shares of their company, LunaDNA ensures that whoever submits their data to the database will be eligible to profit from its use through dividends. Likewise, whenever they make a sale from your DNA file, you will receive money as well.

On the other side of the coin, researchers and pharmaceutical companies can pay LunaDNA for access to their DNA database and conduct medical research and genetic research using the data they find.

The overall goal is to help in the drive for medical discovery and potentially a medical breakthrough by providing increased access to genetic data for researchers while also giving back to the individuals who contributed by submitting their data.

You have to be a US resident and be willing to share your full name to sign up. After that, you can get paid either in US dollars or in LunaDNA’s own cryptocurrency, Luna Coin.

Personal health data

Suppose you want to increase further your profit share and the opportunity to make extra money. In that case, you can opt to share even more health information about yourself via the LunaDNA platform.

This can include medical data through access to your electronic health records, filling out health surveys, and connecting your clinic patient portal. In the future, LunaDNA also hopes to be able to access your biometrics via your wearable devices, whole-genome sequencing (e.g., through Nebula Genomics), and RNA sequencing. So this is an ongoing opportunity for each person who is signed up to the platform to increase their contribution to medical research and be paid back for the use of their data.

Researchers can also contact you directly with further opportunities for you to share your data and make money. This could be asking for specific health data or giving you the chance to enroll in a clinical trial.

Why is LunaDNA important?

LunaDNA has the potential to dramatically increase the research opportunities that can be accessed through the availability of crowdsourced genetic data, which has the potential to drive health discovery after health discovery.

For those who contribute to the platform, it is also an opportunity to be compensated for using their DNA and health information. Of course, many DNA testing companies will already share their genetic data with researchers, but LunaDNA puts the control of this back into the hands of the people who are making it happen.

This is part of a growing movement of companies aiming to compensate users for using their information directly. For example, the Data Dividend Project ensures that people get paid for sharing their data with social media companies.

People are becoming less and less willing to hand over their personal information for large companies to profit from with unclear benefits to themselves.

Are there any potential problems with LunaDNA?

The biggest concern that most people are likely to have with using LunaDNA is related to data privacy. If someone has shared their genetic information, health record, and more, it is vitally important to store this information securely.

LunaDNA has put robust measures to ensure that this is the case. As soon as your data is submitted, it is encrypted to be no longer linked to you personally. You will also retain complete control over your data.

On the other side, researchers can only access DNA data on the LunaDNA platform, and they are not able to download it. This ensures that the data remains securely stored in the LunaDNA database at all times.

To wrap up

LunaDNA is entirely changing how companies use your DNA data by giving you the chance to invest in the company and share in its profits. For example, suppose you have already received your ancestry and health reports from uploading your DNA to another site, and you’re comfortable letting LunaDNA sell your data. In that case, you can make a little passive income while also helping to drive vital medical research. It seems like an actual win-win situation for everyone involved and is tapping into the zeitgeist of ensuring that people are compensated for sharing their personal information online.

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