The top five organizations using Web3 to solve biotech challenges

July 20, 2022 - 6 minutes
Image/Elena Resko

As excitement grows over blockchain technology and the decentralized model of Web3 apps, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are entering the limelight. Check out our list of the five most advanced DAOs aiming to change the game in the biotech industry. 

For decades, the biotech industry has operated in centralized models. Typically, academics research a disease using public money, and then their patents end up in the hands of private companies. This can mean that a lot of scientific discoveries are locked away or difficult to replicate. 

A wave of organizations aims to provide an alternative to this model by democratizing life sciences intellectual property and data. These so-called DAOs consist of networks of users united by a common goal and pot of funding. Users can typically gain voting rights on how the DAO’s resources are spent by purchasing digital “tokens.” In the case of DAOs funding life sciences research, intellectual property can be shared across the group, speeding up collaborations between scientists and improving the reproducibility of the data.

DAOs usually work via decentralized digital ledger technology known as blockchain. This reflects the growing popularity of Web3: a form of the World Wide Web where web services are provided by vast decentralized networks instead of controlled by central providers in the current Web2 framework. Two major Web3 software players that are promoting the new wave of life sciences DAOs include Molecule and SCINET.

The list of DAOs zeroing in on major biotech research bottlenecks is growing fast. While it’s still very early days in the world of DAOs, we’ve listed five of the most established examples to watch in the biotech space.

BioDAO

BioDAO was set up to become a permanent industry standard for funding early-stage biotech research and drug development projects. The DAO aims to fill in major gaps in funding going to early-stage research in addition to providing funds democratically; it particularly seeks to avoid the bias of legacy investors towards celebrity labs and serial biotech founders.

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Members can join BioDAO by buying up “BIO” tokens on the platform or by earning them by contributing work or intellectual property (IP). In return, the members can vote in operational and strategic decisions taken by the DAO.

BioDAO will begin by focusing on funding the development of therapies and artificial intelligence (AI)-based approaches in healthcare. It will later expand to diagnostics and other technologies such as cultured meat. The eventual goal is to bankroll 25–30 projects per year for the next five years.

While BioDAO is a nonprofit organization, it hints at other benefits for members, including the potential for increased demand and value of its tokens.

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CureDAO

CureDAO is an open-source platform geared to research the effects of foods, drugs and supplements on human health. This is because, despite an explosion in the health data being collected by health-focused apps in the last ten years, healthcare costs have increased with no measurable improvements in population health.

CureDAO points the blame at a mixture of factors. One is that all of this massive data collected in the last decade is too dispersed, and isn’t good at calculating how to improve your lifestyle to prevent disease. Another factor is that all of the health apps springing into existence tend to overlap in their functionality, wasting valuable programming efforts.

To overcome these limitations, the CureDAO platform lets users aggregate and analyze health data to make it easier to study how treatments and diets can impact disease. Anyone can donate data, intellectual property, and program and monetize custom plugins for the platform. In return, they get a share of the revenue in tokens.

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The platform is also designed to be usable by digital health companies that want to cut costs in software development.

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GenomesDAO

GenomesDAO is a U.K. firm that sees itself as a counterpart to popular direct-to-consumer genome sequencing companies such as 23andMe. These firms offer the service of sequencing and analyzing a customer’s genome to generate personalized ancestry and health insights. However, they often stockpile the consumer data and sell it in lucrative deals with partner companies.

Using GenomesDAO and its partner Nebula Genomics, consumers can get their genome sequenced and analyzed. They can then store their data on the company’s blockchain infrastructure, where it is encrypted and only accessible with consent from the user. Whenever a partner company, researcher or charity wants to access a user’s genomic data, the user can give their consent and receive a direct payment in the form of GENE tokens. They can even create a personalized non-fungible token (NFT) that is decorated using data from their genome.

https://twitter.com/GenomesDAO/status/1547506634993311744?s=20&t=w2bND3vITZ9Nlil35wvEWg

LabDAO

LabDAO is a network of scientists and engineers that aims to make a large range of computational and wet-lab tools accessible to its members. In a similar way to how open source code has fuelled advances in information technology over the decades, the DAO is working to break the barriers stopping life sciences from being accessible to everyone, such as high costs, trade secrets and data that aren’t reproducible.

Currently at the prelaunch stage, LabDAO is designed to let researchers share their tools and services on a global marketplace, and receive payments in tokens or shared IP. It’s not unlike a network of contract research organizations, but with the mission of being more transparent and less fragmented than current systems.

“Put differently,” adds LabDAO’s website, “we want to live in a world in which students can drop out of school because they developed a therapeutic candidate from their laptop.”

https://twitter.com/lab_dao/status/1531297924478402560?s=20&t=w2bND3vITZ9Nlil35wvEWg

VitaDAO

VitaDAO is an organization centered around the promotion of decentralized drug development, especially in the longevity space. It aims to address a common limitation in the current biopharma model: IP is often held by private companies, which are often vulnerable to R&D inefficiencies that impact researchers and patients.

To overcome this problem, the collective brings together researchers, industry specialists and members of the public on the platform. Members can contribute funding, work and IP to gain so-called VITA tokens and IP-NFTs. These tokens then allow the member to vote in VitaDAO’s strategic decisions.

To decide on which research projects to fund, VitaDAO uses working groups of professionals to vet project proposals before voting with the community. The collective can work with private companies, researchers or even other DAOs. For example, VitaDAO could license data and IP to third parties or publish in data marketplaces.

VitaDAO funded the first ever DAO-backed biopharma research project in August 2021. By the time it hit its first birthday in June 2022, VitaDAO had pumped $2.5 million into more than 10 early-stage longevity projects.

https://twitter.com/vita_dao/status/1542130851575742467?s=20&t=w2bND3vITZ9Nlil35wvEWg

Thanks to feedback from Nick Fiorenza, member of the founding team of Crowd Funded Cures

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