What is LunaDNA?
LunaDNA describes itself as a community-owned platform for health research that promises to transform “your data into medical breakthroughs.” Its community of users share their health and DNA data with LunaDNA’s third-party platform, and receive dividend-paying stock in the company in return. In this way, the people whose personal data helps drive medical research and discoveries are rewarded. The reward is a share of the profits resulting from these breakthroughs.
The explosion of the field of genomics has featured direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies contributing to a volume, or rather separate volumes, of DNA data. The mass of data has opened up tremendous potential for an unprecedented understanding of the genetic bases for illness. The possibility of customizing treatments for illnesses based on DNA data is especially promising. However, the pace of innovation has been halted by the siloed nature of this data. This has resulted from a lack of incentive on either side of the equation. So far, people have not been incentivized to share this most sensitive of data with a third-party platform. On the other hand, DNA sequencing companies are incentivized against sharing by the motive to capture the greatest share of profit
This is where LunaDNA comes in. It realizes that privacy must be at the centre of a healthy solution to this problem. It provides its members with an easy and convenient way to contribute their data in encrypted form, along with control over which of this data they share. Its members are therefore partners, rather than passive sources of this most intimate of data to be mined for maximum profit. The research community wins by having a unified and ever-expanding source of medical and DNA data to scrutinize.
You own your data, not LunaDNA
Members can un-share and delete their data if they want and give permission to share data that they are comfortable with. In this way, contributors’ data is their own asset, not something ‘monetized’ by LunaDNA.
How does LunaDNA work?
Getting started is as simple as uploading the DNA raw data file to the LunaDNA platform and creating an account, a process that makes one a shareholder in the company. Members gain by contributing their data by receiving dividend payments. LunaDNA itself generates revenue by selling the anonymous genetic data to researchers. The payment can be a fixed amount or a share in proceeds resulting from the research. LunaDNA encourages users to share more data by offering increased shares in exchange. Some of the ways members can share more data are:
- Submitting health records
- Tracking biomarkers with wearable devices
- Filling out health surveys
- Joining a specific study with a LunaDNA partner
What LunaDNA does not do
If you are in search of a company to analyze your DNA sequencing data and give you fitness and nutrition recommendations, you should look elsewhere. LunaDNA is where you should go if you are interested in contributing your data for medical research and receiving a share in the profits.
What sets LunaDNA apart?
LunaDNA has a unique ownership structure. Its contributors receive shares of ownership in exchange for their data. In Decemer 2018, LunaDNA became the first company to be qualified by the SEC to offer shares in exchange for information, not cash. This was a crucial change from its earlier strategy of compensating its contributors through its own crypto-currency.
LunaDNA is giving its members a genuine opportunity to participate in the rapid growth in our understanding of health and disease. At the same time, it ensures they receive their fair share in any resulting profits.
The journey so far
LunaDNA was founded in 2017 by Dawn Barry (President), Robert C Kain (CEO) and David Lewis (CFO). Dawn Barry had previously worked as an executive at the $40 billion DNA sequencing leader, Illumina. Illumina Ventures was one of the early investors in Luna.
LunaDNA is headquartered in San Diego.
In January 2019, Luna merged its platform with the Platform for Engaging Everyone Responsibly (PEER). This is the nonprofit Genetic Alliance’s platform, with personal information from 50,000 users about 45 diseases. This is in keeping with LunaDNA’s aim to expand the volume as well as scope of its data, in order to create more value in terms of improved health outcomes. According to co-founder Dawn Barry, they want people involved as partners, not just as sources of specimens. By contributing their information, they contribute to research and therefore to the health of the community
The potential of what LunaDNA is doing is certainly immense. Who can predict what discoveries may result from the stores of data it brings together for researchers to study and detect patterns from? As long as it maintains its people-first orientation and core principles of privacy and security – essential for trust, which is its most valuable asset – the future appears bright for the first mover in a fascinating market.
In Dawn Barry’s vision, LunaDNA would have not just retrospective information, but continuous longitudinal. It would also include contextual information such as environment and nutrition as part of an ongoing relationship with the user, who could monitor the state of their health over the course of years.