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Luna DNA Update – Interview with Co-founder Dawn Barry

[This post originally appeared on AllSeq co-founder Shawn Baker’s site as part of a series on Blockchain Genomics companies]

For my first entry in a collection on “blockchain genomics” corporations (see previous publish for particulars), I had the pleasure of sitting down with Luna DNA co-founder Dawn Barry. I picked Luna DNA to kick off the collection for a few reasons. First, they’re right here in San Diego (nicely, technically Solana Seashore), so I had the posh of conducting the interview in individual. Second, the corporate was founded and being run virtually solely by former colleagues of mine from Illumina – individuals I really respect and contemplate pals. Who might move up that opportunity?!

Shawn Baker (SanDiegOmics): That is such an fascinating new area. How would you describe what Luna DNA is making an attempt to do?

Dawn Barry (Luna DNA): At an excellent high degree what we’re doing at Luna is forming a well being knowledge group. Our position in that group is to combination and manage human well being knowledge for the larger good of medical research. Our strategy is to break down the centralization of siloed knowledge and putting individuals at the middle. Individuals personal their knowledge and their knowledge is effective. They should have a mechanism to share it in a good and transparent means and they need to be rewarded for sharing it. An analogy can be to think about this virtually like a co-op the place everyone brings a helpful asset into the ecosystem. As that asset grows and if it has the potential for higher worth, that worth flows back to the individuals via Luna’s community-owned database.

Shawn: Ok, so many questions! Let’s begin with what you mean by “human health data”. What sort of knowledge are you speaking about and will Luna be generating any of it?

Dawn: Consider three buckets of the knowledge you have got – your genomic info, medical medical knowledge that’s generated within the healthcare system (like EHR sort info), and the third bucket is contextual info – way of life, setting, vitamin.

So then your second question was how do you gather that? First, how do you gather DNA information from and from people? One supply of recruiting  members with DNA profiles is taking a look at individuals who have used a direct to shopper DNA testing product. We estimate there’s about 17,000,000 folks that have bought considered one of these genetic, at-home check kits and doubtless have a DNA file sitting idle that they will put to work.

Shawn: Okay, so many questions! Let’s start with what you imply by “human health data”. What kind of knowledge are you talking about and can Luna be generating any of it?

Dawn: Think of three buckets of the knowledge you have got – your genomic info, medical medical knowledge that’s generated within the healthcare system (like EHR sort info), and the third bucket is contextual info – way of life, surroundings, vitamin.

So then your second question was how do you gather that? First, how do you gather DNA information from and from individuals? One source of recruiting  members with DNA profiles is taking a look at individuals who’ve used a direct to shopper DNA testing product. We estimate there’s about 17,000,000 those that have purchased considered one of these genetic, at-home check kits and doubtless have a DNA file sitting idle that they will put to work.

Shawn: So with 17M individuals, you have to be principally speaking about 23andMe sort knowledge – non-sequencing based mostly. Is that proper?

Dawn: Right – 23andMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage to call a number of.  There are additionally products like Colour, targeted panel products, Veritas merchandise, and Helix. So, sure, the current state of direct to shopper is essentially microarray, nevertheless it’s evolving in the direction of sequencing as nicely. Secondly, there’s any type of genetic info that’s generated within the healthcare system and loads of particular person directed, doctor mediated exomes and genomes beginning to occur. Lastly, the third can be individuals who are collaborating in inhabitants scale research. The goal is to offer those people knowledge back they usually can then come into Luna with that knowledge. So those are sort of three ways that anyone would are available with a DNA profile.

The second (bucket), the medical medical – you’ve gotten the chance to seize that knowledge from your healthcare system. And the third is more future wanting – way of life, surroundings, vitamin, wearable sensors, Fitbit sort stuff. So that’s the three kinds of buckets and how we might get info from these three classes.

Shawn: So why is the third category more for the longer term? As a result of the know-how there appears to be probably the most mature.

Dawn: I simply meant “future” when it comes to the versioning of our product. You’re proper, the info is on the market. Simply when would we be taking that in? That’s in all probability a few versions out.

Shawn: Getting 23andMe knowledge sounds straightforward – I’ve downloaded the raw knowledge for my entire family. However getting EHR knowledge sounds arduous – I wouldn’t know where to start out. Will your clients know?

Dawn: There are lots of corporations out there, we call them medical knowledge aggregators, that may do this – PicnicHealth, to Apple Health Package, to Zipdy, which is an area firm. There are numerous corporations building elegant products to make acquiring DNA knowledge super straightforward for you – by just plugging in a number of healthcare methods you’ve gone to they usually’ll exit and grab it too to perhaps just providing the framework for you to retailer that info. We don’t have to reinvent that API. We’ll largely have a system that’s suitable with a whole lot of great products which might be up and coming in that category. Nevertheless it’s going to be really essential. We’re primarily concerned with the format that those merchandise pull in and serve up the suitable calibration, harmonization, and structure of the info on the back finish. Every thing we usher in needs to be invaluable to researchers and so that sort of knowledge structure is actually essential.

Shawn: So you’re not going to generate any knowledge yourself. What if a shopper involves you and says, “I want to do this, but I don’t have any data”?

Dawn: I’ve been excited about that question so much – “I’m interested in Luna, but I don’t have a DNA file”. We are exploring sure partnerships proper now. Our aim is to not be exclusive and to have numerous partnerships with knowledge turbines, however we haven’t made any commitments in that class. But we do know we don’t need to be in the enterprise of accumulating specimens, generating knowledge and deciphering that knowledge. There’s a strong market already that we don’t have to reinvent.

Shawn: How huge does this need to be?  In case you put this on the market and also you get a couple of thousand individuals signing up, is that large enough to do something helpful?

Dawn: Yeah, it’s fascinating. It is determined by the question you’re asking. So for example, we are engaged with foundations which have a charter to deal with disease, they have a price range to do so they usually have engaged patient populations. What many don’t need to do is host a genotype phenotype database and have interaction individuals longitudinally to collect well being knowledge. So we are available solving a problem. If a foundation comes in with a very enriched patient population that has that longitudinal knowledge, maybe a number of thousand is wealthy sufficient. It simply is determined by your analysis question. The problem we need to clear up is the scope and scale of research databases has been missing in addition to the longitudinal nature of the info that’s out there. And in that regard, the most important human well being database is a superb objective for us to purpose to.

Shawn: What are your ideas for partaking shoppers to collect that longitudinal knowledge, to get them to continually logging into your system?

Dawn: So we expect one of many points in particular person engagement and medical analysis has been the shortage of transparency when it comes to their position and the position in the analysis in addition to a scarcity of transparency in the reward stream that’s coming from this. There’s a healthy pressure particularly now with the notion of economies of sharing – I have knowledge, it’s helpful; I should share in any rewards that come from that knowledge. And so where we’re really pleased with on this model is that we are going to interact individuals transparently and fairly. We would like them to know the kind of analysis that’s being achieved within the database. We need to interact them with utility once they’re within the system and we’ll circulate again proceeds of the database. And we’ll think of different methods to be partaking, but we expect being truthful, being transparent, being mission driven, can be very engaging for individuals who need to participate in analysis.

Surveys are a good way to seize further knowledge. Wanting forward, What might this seem like as know-how just operates in the background of us dwelling our lives because it’s just on our wrist? You may think about contributing a life’s knowledge to analysis simply after one consent, just opting in for a tool or a sensor. But clearly within the meantime we’re not there but. And so sure surveys and sure look-back mechanisms when it comes to pulling EHRs (will be the brief term technique). But as we transfer ahead, I feel the contextual info of way of life, setting, and vitamin is going to be extremely exciting. And you may’t gather that in a one off basis or one research protocol. That’s why engagement issues. That’s why a people-centric group database issues as a result of you have got this dwelling, respiration longitudinal ecosystem.

Shawn: You mentioned gathering knowledge from foundations. Do you see Luna DNA being used by teams, like in a co-op, in addition to individuals?

Dawn: It’s fascinating as a result of DNA is the last word unifier. We’re all a lot extra alike than we’re totally different, however the opportunity to create teams and affinity teams (in the database) is super thrilling when you consider discovery. And that’s why having a public benefit company structure, having a group owned (database), utilizing the perfect know-how to ship transparency, having an ideal staff that spent their entire complete career making genomics knowledge and now saying, OK, so what, what are we going to do to make it extra actionable? Let’s get within the enterprise of actually turning these knowledge into actionable insights. It’s simply a good time to be in this area.

Shawn: Do you envision it really being a gaggle effort in that approach or do you think about individuals being rewarded individually by some means? Like if they have more priceless info or they’ve included extra info.

Dawn: The issue we’re right here to unravel is that the scope and scale of analysis knowledge has been a bit hindered. We haven’t had the dimensions of knowledge sets. We haven’t had the depth of omics. We’ve lacked a whole lot of the contextual info like way of life, setting, vitamin and what we now have had has lacked variety. And so excited about inverting that mannequin and alluring individuals in to deliver all those items of the puzzle together. Foryour question about worth, there are at the least three varieties of research that may be achieved. You’ll be able to take a look at the broad metadata and ask questions concerning the broad knowledge set. You can too by means of indexing that info do extra targeted research – ladies over 40 with a selected genetic profile, for example. And then there’s a third set which is more directed analysis, which may be enabled by way of sensible contracts. An instance could be “I’m a researcher, I’m looking for this type of profile and I want to reach out to those individuals directly and have them fill out this survey or maybe explore this diet.” And so in that final mannequin there’s potential for other individuals to generate extra value within the ecosystem than the broader co-op. But for probably the most part, your worth within the co-op comes from how much you donated. The extra you donate, the larger proportion possession you have got in that co-op.

Shawn: How will you be compensating individuals? How will they share within the rewards?

Dawn: It’s a group owned framework. As worth is derived, it’s going to move back to the individual members who contributed the info. That’s a really distinctive facet of this business model.

Shawn: So let’s speak concerning the elephant within the room. When Luna DNA put out the first press release, blockchain and the cryptocurrency “Luna Coin” have been a part of the business mannequin. Is that also the case?

Dawn: The technique remains unchanged, which is a human well being database owned by the group. Value flows again to knowledge donors when analysis is carried out, consistent with the charter of our public profit company. So none of that has changed. A few of the techniques have modified obviously with plenty of modifications in the SEC surroundings. We are pivoting to a much more traditional strategy to possession that we’ll be saying quickly.  However the general enterprise strategy and mission stays the identical.


I hope you loved our take a look at Luna DNA. Whereas they aren’t accepting samples simply but, you’ll be able to be a part of their publication to maintain up with their latest announcements. You’ll want to maintain an eye fixed out for future entries in this blockchain genomics collection.