Genetics Pioneer George Church to Auction His Genome as an NFT

Another day and another first in the world of non-fungible tokens (NFT). Harvard Medical School genetics professor George Church will auction off his genome as an NFT, which is reportedly the first genome to be given such honor. 

George Church was responsible for developing the first system for direct genomic sequencing, back in 1984. This breakthrough helped launch the Human Genome Project. This is important because the genome up for auction was one of the first-ever sequenced. Now, almost 40 years later, Church’s historical genome is making the news once again. 

George Church continues to spearhead innovation

In an interview with The Scientist, Church stated his desire for the auction to increase conversations about the security of people’s DNA. Church had this to say on the topic of security: 

“Historically, genomic and health data has been monetized with a lack of transparency. That is to say, patients and consumers rarely have full insights into who has access to their data. The rise of blockchain and NFTs however, have enabled a new model for how data can be owned and monetized.” 

While the project’s page states that Church will be auctioning off his full genome, this does raise one big question. How does one give their genome away?

How to sell a genome

NFTs are straightforward, when it comes to what they are and the function they serve in the cryptocurrency world. The sale of a digital art piece, song, or trading card gives you access to that particular work. 

But, how does a buyer take ownership of somebody else’s genetic sequence?

Nebula Genomics predicted this confusion and points out how illogical it would be to transfer genomes from person to person and how that makes it a true NFT:

“The human genome is a unique encoding of an individual. Each human’s genome is a non-changing representation of their most fundamental and personal data, which is inherently non-fungible.”

The highest bidder of the NFT will gain ownership of an ERC-1155 NFT representation, as well as proof of ownership of all associated data. The date of the auction is scheduled to take place on April 25, National DNA Day, with a part of the proceeds going toward genomic research and the rest to charity.