First-ever auction of NFT based on Nobel Prize-winning research data fetches Berkeley $50,000

The NFT was a digital collage of 10 pages of data on cancer immunotherapy research

Vishwam Sankaran
Wednesday 09 June 2021 11:07 BST
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Picture taken on April 7, 2021 shows blockchain entrepreneur Vignesh Sundaresan, also known by his pseudonym MetaKovan, showing the digital artwork non-fungible token (NFT) ‘Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” by artist Beeple
Picture taken on April 7, 2021 shows blockchain entrepreneur Vignesh Sundaresan, also known by his pseudonym MetaKovan, showing the digital artwork non-fungible token (NFT) ‘Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” by artist Beeple (AFP via Getty Images)

In a first, an NFT based on the digital data from a Nobel Prize-winning research created by the University of California, Berkeley alumni, was sold off at an auction for 22 ETH ($54,360), fetching the campus close to $50,000.

This first ever university-issued NFT, or non-fungible token, based on an invention was minted by UC Berkeley last month to honour the breakthrough research of James Allison who established cancer immunotherapy in the 1990s as a fourth pillar of cancer treatment along with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, the university noted in its website.

The therapy has since become an important method to treat more than 15 types of cancers that were difficult or impossible to treat before, saving thousands of lives since its invention.

According to the university, the token – known asThe Fourth Pillar NFT – was a digital collage of 10 pages of details about Allison’s research and correspondences with the university’s patent office in 1995 prior to UC Berkeley filing a patent, created by a team led by alumna Maggie Valentine.

About 30 alumni of UC Berkeley, including blockchain experts Medha Kothari, Justine Humenansky, Ratan Kaliani and Ava Payman, as well as many former members of the group Blockchain at Berkeley, pooled their funds to make the winning bid.

UC Berkeley noted in a statement that it receives 85 per cent of the final bid, adding that the proceeds of the auction would go toward education and research, “with a focus on seed funding for early-stage research that could have a broad impact on society.”

“At the highest level, the role of science in society today is part of what is on auction here today. We wanted people to tap into the wonder of remarkable science, even if they didn’t bid on the NFT,” Rich Lyons, UC Berkeley’s chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer, said in a statement.

“An important benefit of this process is that we’ve now built an A+ team that will serve as capacity for future innovation at Berkeley, not just for the minting of other Nobel NFTs,” Lyons added.

The California university next plans to auction off an NFT honouring the invention of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool – another Nobel Prize-winning UC Berkeley invention.

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