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Crowdfunding in Genomics

Crowdsource and crowdfunding are everywhere these days.

Jimmy Lin, a medical student at Johns Hopkins University, and other young scientists created the Rare Genomics Institute, a non-profit that leverages falling DNA sequencing costs and rising online giving to support medical research. Great idea!

In mid-July, the institute announced that it had completed its first crowdfunded gene sequencing and discovered what it believes is the root cause afflicting 4-year-old Bronx resident Maya Nieder. The girl can’t speak, and doctors are unsure whether she can hear. They had likewise failed to determine why she has missed so many developmental milestones. Lin’s team posted Nieder’s story online, and within hours donors had given the $3,500 needed to sequence key slices of the Nieder family’s DNA. (Yale University covered the rest of the costs.) The results, RGI says, point to a flaw in a gene crucial to fetal development.

Moreover, my friend, Lucien Engelen just published the results of his genomic analysis at 23andme. He aims at crowdsourcing potentially underlying genetic consequences of his genome.

What do you think? Was it a good idea? Would you make such information public?

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