Even as more non-fungible tokens are auctioned off and are increasingly dismissed as a fad, Nature News writes that some researchers think it could represent a way for people to profit from temporarily grant others to access to their genomic data.
NFTs rely on blockchain technology, like that used by cryptocurrencies, to provide a certificate of authenticity for a digital object, in many cases art. But in April, Nebula Genomics announced it would be auctioning an NFT of George Church's genome – Harvard's Church is a co-founder of the company – though Nature News notes the company has since switched gears to instead sell artwork of Church and discounts on its services. Meanwhile, the University of California, Berkeley has auctioned an NFT of patent paperwork related to Nobel Prize-winning work from James Allison and plans to do so for work from Jennifer Doudna, after making sure the NFT doesn't infringe on the actual patent, Nature News adds. Similarly, Tim Berners-Lee, the developer of the World Wide Web, announced his own NFT.
As Nature News notes, critics say NFTs are a fad and wasteful due to the large amount of energy needed to fuel the technology. At the same time, it adds that Nebula is treating its NFT offering as a test: The company already uses blockchain technology to temporarily provide users access to its repertoire of genomes, and NFTs could be a way to further monetize the exchange and allow people to profit from sharing their genomic data.