After years working in labs studying the cell cycle and the genetics of human disease, Gennaro D'Urso founded Genetic Networks, a for-profit company focused on drug discovery. As a teenager, D’Urso lost vision in both of his eyes due to a genetic eye condition. He later received a corneal transplant, which allowed him to regain 20/20 vision in one of his eyes. This event led him to switch majors from business to science, and he eventually received his Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics.
During his years of research, he focused on understanding how genes and proteins work together and how they can be identified and cataloged. While many drug companies look at gene targets that have the potential to be effective, he believes that the way drugs are currently tested is often unsustainable and inefficient due to the failure rates and associated research costs.
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“Genetic Networks was really driven by … the limitations I saw in the pharmaceutical industry and the way it approaches drug discovery,” D'Urso told CoinDesk.D'Urso decided that his drug-discovery technologies would better function outside of academia. So he created Genetic Networks, where he creates functional profiles of how genes and drugs work. Using applied modular biology and genome-wide analytics, he believes that drugs can be repurposed in a way that is faster, safer and cheaper.
In 2021, a friend introduced him to Bitcoin. He later delved further into the world of blockchain and discovered decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO), which he believes have promising potential.
Read More: DAOs Are the New Way of Impact Work
“DAOs are not companies … A DAO can function as an accelerator, a catalyst,” D'Urso told CoinDesk.
While stressing that Genetic Networks is not currently associated with any DAO, he believes that the relationship between private companies and DAOs is at point that he has coined a “verge,” where they can function in tandem to discover promising drugs for those who desperately need them.
He believes DAOs could be used to solve some of the world’s greatest problems (“food, water, medicine, shelter”), while still potentially allowing the DAO community as a whole to profit from fruitful discoveries. At a higher level, D’Urso thinks DAOs could enter into contracts with private companies that would allow the funding DAOs to receive a portion of associated royalties.
Royalties in lieu of VC funding could be a promising alternative that gives founders more control, says D’Urso.
“PharmaDAO is just a brainchild,” D'Urso says, stressing that the blockchain world is not his wheelhouse. His primary domain is strictly off-chain, composed of Genetic Networks and the art/science of combining technology with drug discovery. Though newly introduced to the blockchain ecosystem, he has been reaching out to Web3 communities and experts to explain how he sees DAO structures as a good accompaniment and funding mechanism for his industry.
In addition to the possibility of combining Genetic Networks’ systematic drug discovery with DAO structures, D'Urso mentioned that big drug discoveries – and potentially big partnerships – may be on Genetic Networks’ horizon.
Outside of the DAO paradigm, he finds it inspiring that those in the developing world can leverage blockchain technology to gain agency over their finances by controlling their own crypto wallets: “We [those in the developed world] don’t appreciate how blockchain can really change the lives of those who are less fortunate.”
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