How much would someone be willing to pay for a few pages of a quarter-century old bureaucratic university paper that has been turned into a blockchain-encrypted work of digital art?
University of California, Berkeley, pretty much hopes and it’s about to find out.
Berkeley announced on Thursday that it will be auctioning the first of two digital artworks known as the non-corruptible token, or NFT, next week. The subject matter provided is based on a document called a patent and technology publication. That’s the form that researchers at Berkeley filled out to alert the university to discoveries that could potentially turn out to be lucrative patents.
The title of the invention, from 1996, was “T-Lymphocyte Down-Regulation Involved in CTLA-4 Signaling.”
The university hoped that potential bidders would be intrigued by the original description of a revolutionary approach to cancer treatment developed by James P. Allison, then a professor at Berkeley. He found a way to turn off the immune system’s aversion to attacking tumours, and he showed it worked in mice.
That progress eventually led to the creation of Yervoy, a drug to treat metastatic melanoma, and Dr. Allison, now of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, shared. Nobel Prize in Medicine 2018.
Thus, Berkeley’s reveal form could be considered the scientific equivalent of Mickey Mantle’s rookie baseball card – a memento of the beginnings of greatness.
“I think of it almost as a history of science,” said Richard K. Lyons, director of innovation and entrepreneurship at Berkeley. “Imagine someone saying, ‘I want to own the NFT for the 10 most important scientific discoveries of my life.’
A 24-hour auction of NFTs revealing Dr Allison’s invention will take place as early as June 2 using Foundation, an NFT auction market using Ethereum, the cryptocurrency network hosted by developers. Selected NFT collection.
85% of proceeds will go to Berkeley to fund research, with the remainder going to the Foundation. If the work is subsequently resold, Berkeley will receive 10% of the proceeds and the Foundation 5%.
Berkeley officials said that because creating an NFT requires a lot of computing power, part of the money the university makes from selling the NFT will be used to offset the energy consumed.
The second NFT that Berkeley plans to auction off in the coming weeks will be the disclosure sample describing the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing invention by Jennifer A. Doudna, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Berkeley. She shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Unit for Pathogen Science for their work on the technique.
NFTs have become trendy collectibles in recent months. A unique code embedded in a digital image or video serves as a record of its authenticity and is stored on a blockchain, the same technology that underpins digital currencies like Bitcoin. NFTs can then be bought and sold, just like baseball cards, and the blockchain ensures they cannot be erased or counterfeited.
A dizzying array of materials, far beyond traditional works of art, were sold as NFTs. Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, sold an NFT in his first tweet for $2.9 million. Kevin Roose, a journalist for the New York Times, sold an NFT in his article on the NFT for more than half a million dollars. (The money went to the Times Most Needy Fund.)
The pages of Dr. Allison’s disclosure form, taken from the Berkeley archives, are almost exclusively for dry reading. There is a letter dated July 11, 1995 from Carol Mimura, a licensing associate at Berkeley, thanking Dr. Allison for contacting the university’s technology licensing office and asking him to fill out some forms. single. Another page covers Berkeley’s patent policy.
The documents reflect ancient technologies used in the mid-1990s – typewriters, fax machines and handwritten notes. “I am working to defend patentable issues before the end of July,” reads a memo from Dr. Mimura, now assistant vice-chancellor in charge of industrial and proprietary research alliances. wisdom.
A fax from Dr. Allison to Dr. Mimura consisting of a simple graph with three lines and 21 data points. “Carol – This is the data that excites us,” Dr. Allison scribbled.
His team is testing colon cancer in mice, and blocking CTLA-4 – a protein receptor that acts as an on-off switch of the immune system – “results in tumor elimination in five /5 mice”, Dr. Allison wrote.
Dr. Allison admits that so far, these forms, which have been submitted, have not been seen, of no value.
“The first exposure to the world was like, ‘This is the revelation of the invention,'” he said. “But once they’ve served that purpose, they’ve historically gone unnoticed.”
The NFT idea is the brainchild of Michael Alvarez Cohen, director of innovation ecosystem development at Berkeley’s intellectual property office. He said part of the idea came about after the publication of “The Code Breaker” by Walter Isaacson, a biography of Dr. Doudna. His friends and relatives told him they had no idea that much of the gene-editing technology originated in Berkeley.
“So I was like, Maybe we should post excerpts from the patent disclosure to help push this forward,” he said.
At the same time, he is following blockchain and NFT news.
“Then, about a month ago, I put the two together,” Mr. Cohen said. Disclose Nobel Prize-winning research inventions like CRISPR, make them NFTs, “and promote awareness and also fund research by auctioning NFTs.”
He sat on the idea for a moment.
“I came up with a lot of ideas,” Cohen said. “Some of them have bone heads and everything.”
Just over two weeks ago, he started discussing it with his colleagues, and quickly a plan was put in place. In addition to CRISPR, they decided to highlight the work of Dr. Allison.
Allison NFT is more than a simple digital document. “It’s a combination of lab notebooks and digital art,” Cohen said. A single image consists of 10 pages but one can zoom in and read the document. “I really wanted to preserve the readability of history beyond seeing the beauty of the images,” he said.
NFT’s designers also included subtle nods to the original resistance to Dr. Allison’s ideas. The pages were all slightly tilted, because “people looked at him sideways,” Cohen said. “There are so many little things like that in art.”
Dr. Lyons was reluctant to predict how much the artwork would fetch at auction. “I would be very surprised if it cost less than $100,000,” he said. “It can be seven numbers. This is a new category, and it’s hard to value anything that’s a new category.”