How healthy is your DNA? This biotech is crowdfunding a way to let you know

DNA is damaged and broken every day, sometimes naturally and sometimes as a result of exposure to ultraviolet and other kinds of radiation and chemical toxins. But sometimes it can’t be repaired. DNA damage and poor repair capabilities have been linked to some cancers, immunological diseases and premature aging. A startup called Exogen Biotechnology is […]

DNA is damaged and broken every day, sometimes naturally and sometimes as a result of exposure to ultraviolet and other kinds of radiation and chemical toxins.

But sometimes it can’t be repaired. DNA damage and poor repair capabilities have been linked to some cancers, immunological diseases and premature aging.

A startup called Exogen Biotechnology is recruiting a group of citizen scientists – and $50,000 – to help it bring technology that monitors DNA health out of the lab and into the hands of consumers.

Exogen, founded by a biophysicist and a computational biology fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, says the ability to measure DNA damage has been around for more than a decade but is time-consuming and prone to error when done manually. So the company has developed a high-throughput technology that automates the process of measuring double-strand breaks in blood samples. Its technology looks at 53BP1, a binding protein thought to participate in a cell’s response to DNA damage.

The duo has turned to Indiegogo to collect the data they need to explore how DNA damage correlates to specific diseases and environmental and lifestyle factors. Donors to the campaign receive a kit that contains tools used to collect and ship a small blood sample for analysis. In return, they get an analysis of their DNA health.

Exogen will compile the data from the blood sample, plus a survey the donor fills out about him or herself, with data from other participants. That will allow them to identify patterns, for example, or map the data to explore geographical areas where there may be high levels of environmental toxins.

The company is halfway to its goal of raising $50,000.