The Human Genome Project (HGP) may have been announced as formally completed in 2003, but the field of genomics itself is still in a relatively early stage of its development.
Genetics is the study of individual genes and their behaviour and impact within the organisms which host them, and is arguably a simpler scientific pursuit – in relative terms – than genomics, which is the study of how genes collaborate together within an organism and define its overall behaviour and condition.
As a result, genomics as a discipline carries a much higher reliance on statistical observations to identify patterns of meaningful behaviour manifested by a group of genes, as opposed to genetics which largely seeks out deterministic explanations for a single gene’s behaviour.
The implication is that big data will have a big role to play in future advances within the field of genomics. One obstacle to gathering the vast volumes of genome data required to make such advances is that sequencing the genome of one given individual has historically been a costly affair. However, as the Shivom project’s own white-paper points out, those costs are starting to fall – and this has now opened up opportunities for platforms proposing big data genomics solutions.
The proposition of the Shivom project is, then, to build a blockchain-based, tokenised platform which proposes an incentivisation mechanism for individuals to upload, share and monetise their genomic data. The more individuals that participate, the more the cost of sequencing will be driven done – or, at least, that is the expectation.
The overall hope is that, by doing so, Shivom will be able to create a kind of genome data marketplace that brings together consumers of that data – insurance companies, medical research laboratories, universities and others – into contact with the individuals who share their genome data, with the latter also being in a position to exercise control over who gains access to that data whilst auctioning it out to the highest bidder.
The first observation that can be made of the project’s white-paper is that it refers to itself as an ‘Executive Summary’. That is likely due to the fact that the team behind the project is academic top-heavy – and have understood that the traditional, academic term white-paper is not strictly apt for a document which serves as an outline for the project’s business model.
The first question that could be asked here in relation to this business model is whether a blockchain-based solution is needed. The short answer is yes. The business model here is almost identical to a myriad of other blockchain-based personal data management platforms that have ICO’ed recently – such as Datum and DataWallet – which all look to exploit the Blockchain’s ability to offer up trust, security and data integrity.
Where this project differs from the others, however, is that it uniquely focuses on genome data. The project team also provide a pitch-deck which is, arguably, more informative than the Executive Summary.
The project road map is a comparatively short one; the project team expect to roll out its initial platform by the end of the current calendar year (2018), with efforts thereafter being focused on developing a suite of web-hosted Big Data Analytics tools that will offer the platform’s data consumers the ability to plough through its source data.
At the time of writing, the sale details have not been finalised. It is known, however, that the project team plan to mint three billion tokens, of which 24% are reserved for the founding team and advisors. This is, of course, an extremely high circulation token – which can be justified if the project manages to rise to the ambitious heights that it sets itself.
Otherwise, the economics of the token are akin to any other standard, blockchain-based data brokerage platform. The token serves as the medium of payment to those who sell their personal data and those who want to purchase data from the platform.
Ten percent of all proceeds will be allocated to the funding of a non-profit genome data research body. Contributors to the project should be able to appreciate the philanthropic aspect here. The internal reserve (24%) mentioned earlier appears a little high, but without any details currently available in relation to the overall hardcap of this project, it is not possible at the time of writing to put this figure into context.
The project’s sale date is listed as April 1st but this is an estimate only – please consult directly with the project’s representatives on Telegram (see sidebar for link to the Shivom Telegram channel) for the latest details.
The project is headed up by Dr. Alex Schumacher (CEO), who holds a PhD in Genetics and who is a member of the Toronto-based Blockchain Research Institute; Gourish Singla (COO) who has been with the project for just over a year and appears by all accounts to have built up a successful business in the six years previous to his joining the Shivom team; and Sally Eaves (CMO) who holds a PhD in Media.
All three profiles are provided with Linkedin profiles which appear to be embedded in large networks. There may be a slight question mark over the depth of industry experience brought to the table by the project’s headline figures.
However, this may be compensated in part by a relatively strong advisory board that includes Per Lind, co-founder of the IOTA Foundation and who refers to himself altogether modestly as a “kick-ass business development officer” on his Linkedin profile.
With just under 70,000 followers on Telegram, and just over 45,000 followers currently on Twitter, this is an ICO that appears to be generating widespread interest. More reassuringly again, the project appears to be attracting healthy interest from within the Linkedin community, which is altogether more unusual in the ICO space.
With 21% of its final budget being allocated to marketing, this is clearly a project team that understands the importance of a well-financed marketing strategy in getting its message out there – at least in relative terms. In absolute terms, as previously mentioned, we currently have no figures for the project’s soft and hard caps, so it is difficult to make an overall judgement on the marketing strategy.
Having researched the Shivom proposition, it is difficult not to like what this project is setting out to achieve. If the team do succeed in their vision, the impact will be far-reaching and positive for everyone all round.
Clinical researchers get access to larger as well as much more representative genomic data sets allowing them to pursue their research further; those who provide that data are able to both protect and monetise that data however they see fit; medical professionals will be better positioned to provide more personalised healthcare; and academic researchers will be able to expand their research remits.
Whilst it is difficult to judge the overall potential for success for this project – or any blockchain-based startup project, for that matter – the general early signs appear quite good: there are clear indications of engaged interest from the general public as well as private seed investor investors which should mean that the project team manage to raise the funds necessary to proceed with the proposition. After that, the project’s chances should simply boil down to its ability to execute well.