The Ethereum blockchain has enabled numerous innovations and new financial primitives. It’s given creative individuals and groups new tools to redesign, build, and launch new types of organizations too. One of the most popular new organization types being developed and tested is a DAO, or decentralized autonomous organization. One of the fundamental differences between a DAO and a typical corporation is there is no centralized, authoritative power for decision-making. Within a DAO, the power is distributed to the community that is engaged, participating, or has financial interest in the DAOs long term success. A DAO is usually run by a core team that is reporting directly to a community or community members that hold governance rights.
Governance rights are held through tokens or NFTs on a blockchain. DAOs leverage blockchain technology and tokenomics to help drive better alignment, coordination, and economic incentives for the participating group members and investors. Let’s dive deeper with the exciting example of VitaDAO, which will showcase how this is being applied to the longevity research field and research fundraising.
In June 2021, VitaDAO publicly launched with their Gnosis Auction of the $VITA token. VitaDAO is an early-stage longevity research collective that strives to achieve more open and community-driven research. By utilizing the Ethereum blockchain, VitaDAO has an expanded toolkit for developing novel ways to sell and license intellectual property and reward the community directly from the DAO’s assets. In their Gnosis Auction, they raised Ethereum tokens (funds) from the public, initial investors, research entities, and the founding team to create the VitaDAO treasury. In return, investors received the $VITA token, a governance token that enables voting and governance rights to its holders. Since raising funds, VitaDAO has been actively onboarding new team members and existing intellectual property and research data to the DAO’s ecosystem.
Source: Medium - “How VitaDao Works”
Today’s path for longevity research fundraising is often a convoluted and long, arduous process. Research organizations, academics, or independent scientists frequently need to have the right connections or political alignment to capture grants to perform novel research. Additionally, there’s economic misalignment between researchers and the Pharma/medical industry. This occurs because many private or corporate-funded research is focused on research that will provide a profitable product or therapeutic regardless of the potential human benefits some promising research might have. In research funded by corporations or private entities, the data is not typically shared in a public collective, and thus the learnings are not passed on to others, which can lead to missed future research opportunities or breakthroughs. This monopolization of research data and intellectual property by multinational Pharma or other corporations can be very limiting for the scientific community or human population at large.
VitaDAO aims to challenge the closed-off research and data status quo in the longevity industry by opening governance rights and data to the participating token holders in the community. Initially, VitaDAO and the contributing partners are targeting the longevity and therapeutics research market with the funds raised so far. The global longevity market had an estimated $62B+ value in 2021 with significant expected growth over the next five years as the population continues to age, especially in advanced economies such as the United States and Japan.
VitaDAO is at the beginning of its journey to enter this lucrative marketplace. VitaDAO is currently set up with several research working groups, such as the University of Copenhagen, that are contributing research, operations expertise, and legal protection to VitaDAOs’ asset pool. As scientists share their data and research with VitaDAO, they are democratizing the access to longevity and therapeutic research and data within the collective. How are they doing this without losing access to their IP and data? The DAO isn’t giving IP and data out for free. The DAO owns the IP and data in a trustless and transparent way on the blockchain by creating their IP and data as NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. These IP NFTs are then governed by the VitaDAO token holders and can be leveraged as revenue streams to sustain further VitaDAO research. This revenue can come from two places: selling datasets and research on the open market, or licensing out the IP to public and private companies to produce novel therapeutics or products to be sold to the public.
Researchers and working groups contributing their data or expertise to VitaDAO will be rewarded in $VITA tokens to give them additional governance over the DAO’s IP and economically reward them for their continued participation. Since launch, the $VITA token has done well on the marketplace gaining 100%+ since the end of June. As of writing, $VITA is trading at $2.02 USD.
VitaDAO intends to have many therapeutic products and research contributions that benefit humanity. They are targeting research that might otherwise be overlooked by large Pharma and academia, which could be the result of any number of political, economic, or miscellaneous reasons. Since VitaDAO’s activity is all on the Ethereum blockchain - the $VITA token, the VitaDAO IP (as NFTs), DAO decisions - the DAOs’ activity is transparent for community members to verify contribution and see the activity occurring within the VitaDAO ecosystem. This open ethos goes along with the VitaDAO mission to democratize longevity and therapeutic research making it more transparent and accessible for people to contribute to their mission.
For crypto investors, this is not your average token that’s backed by some ponzenomics structure with a crazy farming APY%. Nor is it a utility token that will be used in a future, in-game economy. When buying the $VITA token, one is buying into VitaDAO’s community, governance over the DAO’s IP and data, and the vision for a new, more transparent research funding model.
For those who work in the therapeutics space, perform research, or have other consulting expertise, VitaDAO is encouraging people to apply and begin contributing. The growth of this research community will only help VitaDAO leverage its growing IP and assets in the competitive marketplace for licensing agreements and data sales.
This business model and tokenomics being implemented by VitaDAO will hopefully encourage other research groups and companies to rethink how they fundraise, reward, and share value in a more democratized and accessible way for their research contributors and supporting members.