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Nebula Genomics Review: A great value in DNA testing and data analysis?

Exploring all of the details of Nebula Genomics’ whole-genome sequencing and DNA tools

Last Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Nebula Genomics review

We live in a golden age of information. You can access anything you want to know with a few taps. Whether you want to call your friend across the globe or watch dozens of cat videos, the internet provides seemingly never-ending opportunities to connect and learn. Scientists finally finished mapping the human genome in 2021, but many genetics services only test a handful of specific genes. With information about the world at our fingertips, why should knowing about our full genome be any different?

Nebula Genomics opens access to your genetic code through genomic testing. Reading and understanding your genetic makeup has never been easier with a constantly updated catalog of genes, variations, and scientific interpretations. But is the experience worth your time and money?

We thoroughly tested the service to help you decide whether or not you’re ready to dive deep into your genome with Nebula Genomics.

Editor's Summary

Overall Rating 8.4 / 10

Nebula Genomics gives you everything there is to know about your genetic code for a few hundred dollars and with tenacious blockchain-based privacy. However, without genetic-expert tools and knowledge to interpret your results, you might walk away without taking full advantage of it.

Pros

  • Whole-genome test, complete with explanations of all scientifically relevant results
  • Thoroughly based in new science that’s updated weekly
  • Extremely strong blockchain-based privacy
  • Phenomenal accuracy, checking results up to 100 times
  • Detailed exploration tools let you click through your genome base by base
  • Beginning genome sequencing plan costs less than $100

Cons

  • You’ll need a paid subscription to access your results – and will lose access without it
  • No in-house ancestry genetic services yet
  • Dense scientific results can be hard to read
  • Can take a long time to get in touch with customer service
  • 12-week wait time to get results
Our Top Picks

Nebula Genomics

By testing with Nebula Genomics, you get the maximum amount of genetic data, along with excellent means to explore it and protect it.

The 30x Whole Genome Sequencing test sequences your entire genome for the lowest price available. For health testing or ancestry testing (partnering with Family Tree DNA), Nebula Genomics is a powerful choice. Their commitment to privacy is very impressive.

Deep Plan
Reviewed by Innerbody Research
$299
Basic Plan
Reviewed by Innerbody Research
$99
Ultra Deep Plan
Reviewed by Innerbody Research
$999

How we evaluated Nebula Genomics

Cost

8.5 / 10

It’s never been cheap to sequence your entire genome, but Nebula Genomics makes it relatively affordable. Their packages come at low costs – even Ultra Deep, the most accurate test on the market, costs less than $1,000 – but there is a required subscription that you’ll need to pay to keep viewing your information. This isn’t always clear upfront, but the additional charges can rack up quickly, especially if you’re paying month-to-month.

Scientific accuracy

9.4 / 10

Nebula Genomics offers one of the most accurate genetic tests on the market. Plus, as a full exome test, they provide readings for literally every gene you’ve got. Their Deep and Ultra Deep tests read through your genetic data 30 and 100 times, respectively, to ensure your results are correct. They guarantee it is more precise than a lab that only reads through it once.

Once you have that, Nebula Genomics provides a wealth of tools to help you parse through and explore your genome. This includes actions from mapping your major single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) mentioned in scientific studies to how often that specific variation occurs in other people. Nebula can help you find out almost anything you want to know about yourself, and it’s almost certain to be both scientifically up-to-date and relevant.

Real-life applications

7.5 / 10

It might feel like you need a degree in genetics to understand a lot of the information Nebula Genomics gives you, but they provide resources to help you out. While they offer everything you could need to know about your exome to clinical and research-lab standards, the average person doesn’t necessarily need this many specifics.

You can take this information wherever you’d like for a different interpretation, but Nebula Genomics tries to give you more grounding on their platform through the Library. This section is updated weekly with new results and simplified graphics following fresh research studies. There are no action plans or suggestions: just sheer scientific data and knowledge about what you might be predisposed to experiencing.

Privacy

9.3 / 10

Your entire genome might be out in the world, but you can rest easy knowing it’s safe. Nebula Genomics is the only genetic testing company currently using the strengths of up-and-coming technology to bolster their privacy.

By using blockchain technology to track your consent to share data and who’s accessed it, they prevent unwanted looks at your genome from third parties, hackers, and government organizations. This extra level of privacy is on top of all of the standard, high-quality privacy protections, including limiting access to third parties (Nebula Genomics has almost none) and using a CLIA-certified laboratory.

Customer support

7.0 / 10

A big draw to Nebula Genomics is that they let you play scientist with your genome, zooming through your real introns, missteps, and SNPs. However, this high expectation for your genetic understanding comes through their customer support. There are no ways to get in immediate contact with a representative if you run into any problems; the one email form you can use often takes more than 48 hours to get a response. Nebula Genomics might brag that their Deep and Ultra Deep plans put you in touch with professionals at your convenience, but we didn’t find that opportunity in our testing.

On the upside, Nebula Genomics has stocked their site with dozens of tutorials, blog posts, and FAQs for you to dig through and find an answer while you’re waiting.

Why you should trust us

Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers like you make more informed decisions to live healthier lives. We extensively test each health service we review, including Nebula Genomics.

All told, our team has spent hundreds of hours testing and researching Nebula Genomics and its competitors in DNA testing to give you an unbiased exploration of your genetic testing options, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. Through a thorough and deliberate approach to every product we encounter, we evaluate services based on adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?

Additionally, this review of Nebula Genomics, like all health-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.

What is Nebula Genomics?

Nebula Genomics is a personal genomics company that focuses on whole-genome sequencing. What this means is that Nebula will read your DNA and, rather than interpreting a handful of select genes like other genetic testing companies, they read your whole genome from start to finish.

Nebula Genomics was founded in 2018 in part by Dr. George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and the creator of the first direct genomic sequencing method back in 1984. Church also co-founded Veritas Genetics, HLTH.network, and other blockchain-based genetic research organizations. It’s safe to say that with a figurehead like Church behind the scenes, Nebula is on the cutting edge of science.

Church and his co-founders created Nebula Genomics to help make full genome readings accessible and affordable for the masses. By doing so, they are helping to create large data sets used by genetic researchers to find new information and improve genetic research, both for those taking the tests and those studying it. With improvements in genomic data privacy and affordability, their goal is to advance medicine and improve the state of healthcare.

Who should consider using Nebula Genomics?

One of Nebula Genomics’ central features is that they don’t hold anything back. A lot of the time, this is a huge perk: you can find anything you want as long as it’s represented in your genes and you have the ability to decipher it. Because it’s so self-directed, Nebula Genomics isn’t a great option for those who are brand new to genetics and have little time to dedicate to developing a better understanding of it. But you can get an abundance of cutting-edge, valuable information out of Nebula Genomics testing if:

  • You’re willing to invest some time studying up on genetics testing.
  • You have some training in genetics – whether that’s from a college or just spending time on Wikipedia.
  • You know someone who falls into one of those camps and could help you decipher the results.

While Nebula Genomics advertises ancestry information, they don’t currently offer any ancestry analysis in-house. They work with two outside programs for ancestry, and while you’ll get free access to those results (up to a $49 value), it’s not a big focus for the company. If you’re interested in learning details about your ancestry, Nebula Genomics isn’t the best service out there for the job.

On the other hand, Nebula Genomics’ wide net of health and biological data provides insight into potential health concerns and carrier statuses. If you’re looking for any possible genetic abnormalities that could be passed on to children, Nebula Genomics will have it for you. This comes as both a pro and a con: Nebula Genomics doesn’t offer any genetic counseling, so if you find any emotionally charged information, you’re on your own. But if you’ve ever been curious about how another genetic testing company got their results, Nebula Genomics will have an answer.

There is no FDA approval for any of the analyses Nebula Genomics runs, so none of the information you find can legally be considered medical advice. Any concerns should be brought up with a doctor or genetic counselor, who can help you verify the information and discuss the next steps.

Nebula Genomics has no restrictions on who can use their service. Their whole-genome sequencing is available in almost every country internationally, though you’ll have to pay for return shipping for your sample if you live outside of the United States. Since your DNA stays the same throughout your entire life, children can also be tested with parental permission and guidance.

How does Nebula Genomics work?

Nebula Genomics is extremely up-front with most of the nitty-gritty details on how they run things. As a whole-genome sequencing service, they take a sample of your DNA from saliva and cheek skin cells and construct a picture of your whole genome using that DNA. For their two higher-priced plans, they run through this full sequence many times using the Human Genome Project’s latest update (called hg38) to make sure their findings are consistently correct.

Nebula Genomics uses next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology to sequence your entire genome. NGS allows laboratories to sequence an entire genome in a single day – previous techniques could do whole-genome sequencing, but it would take up to a decade to complete one genome. They are currently collaborating with BGI Group to make this testing affordable and comprehensive.

Some people have voiced concerns over Nebula Genomics’ partnership with BGI Group. They are a Chinese life science company developed partly by the Chinese army, but Church has been on BGI Group’s scientific advisory board since 2007. BGI Group created an institute specifically for Church’s collaborative work, where all of Nebula Genomics’ samples are sent. This is part of why it takes 12 weeks to get your results back, as your saliva sample must make it to China before it can be sequenced.

Once your whole genome is sequenced, Nebula Genomics gathers all of the raw data, aligning your genes with a wealth of genetic literature. They offer three different ways to interpret and interact with your genetics:

  • Research library
  • Genome browser
  • Genome analysis

These tools help you see exactly how your genetic makeup fits in with what science currently knows. In order to access the Library, you’ll need to have an active Nebula Explore account, which is their subscription service you can pay for at checkout. While you’ll need to pay for Nebula Explore the entire time you interact with your genetics through the service, they make all of your data available for free download so that you can have full ownership over the information that makes you who you are.

How much does it cost?

Currently, Nebula Genomics offers three plans to help you start sequencing your genes.

While these plans are relatively similar, they offer some key differences. We’ve put together a chart to help make these overlaps and differences a little clearer.

  Basic Deep Ultra Deep
Cost $99 $299 $999
Full genome sequence?  
Yes
Yes
Amount of genetic data gathered 2 GB 100 GB 300 GB
Ancestry reports Autosomal Mitochondrial and Y-chromosome Mitochondrial and Y-chromosome
Accuracy Medium (0.4x) High (30x) Very high (100x)
Genome exploration tools  
Yes
Yes
Common gene mutations
Yes
Yes
Yes
Rare gene mutations  
Yes
Yes
Regular library updates
Yes
Yes
Yes
Oral microbiome test      

Nebula Genomics used to offer an oral microbiome analysis, which gives you a rough breakdown of the bacteria and organisms that live in your mouth. The oral microbiome analysis doesn’t appear to exist anymore, but many links and references to the program remain throughout the site.

Basic plan

The Basic plan is the most similar to other genomic companies. This is not a full genome sequencing but rather decodes the “most important” parts of your DNA, or those that code for known proteins rather than every single gene. The sequencing depth is quoted as 0.4x, which means that the test reads through about ⅖ of your genes.

A Basic plan won’t check for rare mutations, nor will it prep your genetic information for any potential diagnoses that need to be made by a health professional. This can be limiting because future studies may show that parts of genes previously believed to be non-coding or not important might turn out to be crucial for biological processes. Because you aren’t getting the full picture of your genome, the Basic plan also doesn’t provide any access to genome exploration tools like the Gene Browser.

For the low price of $99, a Basic plan can still get you a lot of information about yourself. If you’re just getting started in your genetic surveying, or if you know you won’t use any of the genome exploration tools, you might not miss out on a critical amount of information. The cost of Nebula Expand also goes down with a Basic plan, meaning you’ll pay less over time.

This plan also provides a short analysis of your ancestry using autosomal chromosomes, which are non-sex-linked chromosomes (not your X and/or Y chromosomes). This gives you a good, yet broad, analysis of where your DNA came from, but it’s not possible to break down what came from which side of your family. There is no access to YFull or any other ancestry sites with the Basic plan.

Deep plan

Nebula Genomics’ Deep plan is their lowest-cost whole-genome sequencing test. It provides a 30x sequencing depth, which means that your entire genome is read over 30 separate times. Without having to do more work or wait longer, you’ll be able to look at every single gene in your body using the Library, gene analysis, or Gene Browser tools. You can also see any rare genetic mutations you have.

Nebula Genomics is not a medical site, and they are not FDA-approved, meaning they can’t legally give medical advice or make diagnoses from their findings. You can still use their genetic exploration tools to look for genes associated with things like the APOE gene, where a certain variant is strongly associated with a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Since Nebula Genomics analyzes your entire genome, you can find anything that a genetic counselor would, but that doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily emotionally – or materially – prepared for what you might find.

From our testing, we think that the Deep plan is the best balance of cost and accuracy at $299. Nebula Genomics rates it as the best choice for most users, and we agree.

As a plus, the Deep plan offers sex-chromosome-based ancestral DNA testing. This Deep Ancestry looks at both Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA to differentiate between your maternal and paternal genetics to more clearly delineate where each side of your family is from. However, Nebula doesn’t do any ancestry testing themselves; instead, they’ve formed partnerships with two different ancestry services to offer testing.

Ultra Deep plan

As their most expensive and high-definition option, the Ultra Deep plan is virtually identical to the Deep plan. The major difference comes from the level of full genome sequencing.

The Ultra Deep plan sequences at a depth of 100x, meaning that each gene is read through 100 times. That level of depth, combined with the fact that it’s a full genome test, makes the Ultra Deep plan one of the most accurate genetic tests available anywhere, if not the number one.

However, nothing’s ever perfect, and in this case, near-perfection comes at a high price. An Ultra Deep plan costs $999, or $700 more than the Deep plan just for higher accuracy.

Nebula Expand subscription

To maintain access to your library of information, you’ll need to pay for a subscription to Nebula Genomics’ services. The rate changes depending on the frequency you pay and the type of kit you originally purchased.

  Monthly Annually One-time
Basic Plan $14.99/month $83.88/year $110
Deep Plan $19.99/month $119.88/year $200
Ultra Deep Plan $19.99/month $119.88/year $200

Luckily, you won’t be charged until your results are ready. Nebula Expand contains the actual results themselves, as well as gene exploration tools. Your results are updated weekly as Nebula Genomics finds new, relevant genetic studies.

If you’ve previously used another simple genetic service, Nebula Genomics can take your results and crunch the numbers to give you full access for free. You’ll still have to pay for a Nebula Expand subscription, but there are no additional costs. Right now, Nebula Genomics can accept raw data from 23andMe or AncestryDNA, but they’re in the process of expanding that list.

The Nebula Library

Move over, Library of Alexandria: there’s a new, extraordinarily comprehensive library in town. The Nebula Library is a collection of scientific studies paired with personalized DNA reports, updated weekly with new findings. If clicking on every report seems exhausting, Nebula Genomics has a database of every scientific study they refer to with a summary and link to read the paper itself.

Each study is linked to what they call a report. Reports encapsulate a huge amount of data summarized in a bite-sized pocket. This information includes:

  • A single-sentence summary of the study
  • A broader summary of the study
  • A description of the trait the study investigated
  • A fun fact
  • A summary explaining your detailed results, including positive and negative effect sizes and your overall polygenic score
  • Your genetic predisposition ranking in percentiles for the trait, compared to 5,000 other Nebula Genomics users
  • A full list of all of your genetic information associated with the trait
  • Additional resources

The genetic information, in particular, is a dense yet colorful table that contains:

  • The genetic variant
  • Your genotype (two base pairs)
  • The gene your genotype comes from
  • The overall effect size (whether the genetic variant increases, decreases, or doesn’t affect your likelihood of having or developing the trait)
  • The variant’s frequency among people
  • The statistical significance (how close the link is between the trait and the genotype)

If you have the variant and it affects your chance of having a given trait, the entire row is highlighted. A green highlight means your chances are increased (positive effect size); a blue highlight means your chances are decreased (negative effect size).

Your “percentile” score is calculated by the number of positive or negative effect genotypes you have from that specific study, how rare they are, and how closely tied to the gene they are. That score is then compared to the scores of all other Nebula users and calculated to give you a broad sense of how likely you are to be predisposed – or not – to a given trait.

Complicated? For sure. But Nebula Genomics does a great job of breaking it all down. Plus, you don’t have to go through every report individually. You can scroll through the Library homepage and give each report a passing glance. The overall percentile-based predisposition, as well as the short summary and an excerpt of the description, are both shown in that abbreviated version as well. If something strikes your fancy, you can open it up and read the full report.

With hundreds of traits already reported and more added every week, Nebula Genomics has already thought about what happens when you find a report you’re interested in keeping an eye on or what to do to help you find the things you are curious to know about. There’s an option to favorite individual reports with a star, which saves them in one category, as well as a broad list of tags you can refine by, from addiction to spine to intelligence.

There are two studies that have broad social implications rather than just addressing genetics. These two – intelligence and income – are a little different from the rest of Nebula’s catalog. Other genes that Nebula Genomics points out in the Library are specifically related to medical and overall health concerns, like your risks of frailty in old age, prostate cancer, and schizophrenia.

Intelligence and income are two parts of our lives that are driven in large part by our interactions with the world around us, and genetic predispositions aren’t the end-all-be-all. Be careful when thinking about these two reports: the implication that your worth in society can be determined by your genes is a dangerous road that has previously led to things as extreme as eugenics.

Traits

If the thought of clicking through hundreds of traits and dense scientific reports is overwhelming, Nebula Genomics has an alternative. The Traits section has four categories of curated traits, each exploring phenotypes common in other genetic tests. These categories are:

Appearance and hormones

Earwax type, freckling, hair thickness, testosterone levels

Appearance and Hormones

Behavior and perception

Alcohol sensitivity, asparagus metabolite odor, caffeine use, cilantro preference, misophonia, nicotine response, pain sensitivity, snacking behavior

Behavior and Perception

Body and athleticism

Blood pressure, height, restless legs, longevity, muscle strength, muscle volume, nearsightedness, obesity, physical conditioning, skin sensitivity, sleep depth

Body and Athleticism

Nutrition and diet

Hunger response, lactose intolerance, sweet tooth, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D

Nutrition and Diet

One of our testers found that more than half of their traits had the same message underneath: “Your genotype has not been described in association with this trait.” It doesn’t mean that you won’t have the trait, but that the specific SNP you have isn’t something that came up in the research study Nebula Genomics draws their information from. This means that there either isn’t a correlation between your genotype and the trait – for things like obesity, that might mean that you’re not predisposed to it – or that there just isn’t enough research out there on the topic. However, that doesn’t keep it from being frustrating.

Digging into the library might also help to shed light on traits that aren’t clear in the Traits section. For example, one of our testers had the error message pop up for height but was rated in the 88th percentile (above average genetic predisposition) for familial short stature and 7th percentile (low genetic predisposition) to a taller stature. The tallest person in this tester’s family is 5’6”, so their inherited short stature came through more clearly in the library than the trait panel.

Other exploratory tools

Ancestry

Nebula Genomics doesn’t provide any ancestry results through their platform. Everything that Nebula Genomics does is specific to health, appearance, and behavioral SNPs – who you are, not where you come from. However, with the Deep and Ultra Deep genomic packages, Nebula Genomics provides free access to YFull.

YFull is an ancestry platform that analyzes both your mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA to track your maternal and paternal heritage. This service normally costs $49, so it’s a substantial addition to the package. If you don’t have a Y chromosome, however, YFull can only give you mitochondrial DNA tracing and not a full look at your ancestry.

When our testers tried YFull, it was immediately overwhelming: instead of ancestors, they found strings of numbers and SNPs that seemed unrelated, disconnected trees with no references, and a complicated FAQ that requires substantial knowledge to navigate. If you have the genetics knowledge to decode a human phylogenetic tree, you might find YFull’s ancestry report easier to understand than our testers did, but it’s not designed for someone who’s just curious about where they come from.

Sometime in early 2022, Nebula plans to release a partnership with FamilyTreeDNA for deep ancestry research. FamilyTreeDNA will give you three reports for free:

  • Paternal ancestry (a Big Y-700 test)
  • Maternal ancestry (a mitochondrial DNA test)
  • Family Finder (a traditional autosomal ancestry test)

Gene analysis

Powered by gene.iobio, Nebula Genomics offers a click-and-hunt tool that lets you look at the fine detail of any gene in your genome. This gene analysis tool is so in-depth it could stand on its own. To use it, look up a gene by name or phenotype (what gets physically displayed like eye color), or you can pick from a panel pre-curated by Nebula Genomics.

After the program finds the gene you want to investigate, it automatically hunts for any variants. If any are in your gene, the program highlights and calls your attention to important variants. These variants are categorized into multiple categories:

  • High or moderate impact
  • Pathogenic
  • Autosomal dominant
  • Recessive
  • De novo (new or spontaneous variants)
  • Compound hets
  • X-linked recessive

Nebula Genomics’ gene analysis pulls these variants out separately so that you don’t have to comb through 60+ genes to find something that’s out of the norm.

The gene itself is a little difficult to read at times, with lots of overlapping shapes in different colors. Luckily, Nebula Genomics offers a very simple legend to help you decode its:

  • Impact
  • Clinical variance (whether or not it’s pathogenic or potentially harmful)
  • Pathogenic evidence (if there’s researchable proof it’s potentially harmful)
  • The type of variant (SNP, deletion, insertion, or complex)
  • Whether or not the variant passed quality control
  • Where introns and exons are (non-coding and coding parts of gene)

Plus, clicking on an individual variant will highlight it and show:

  • Sequencing data quality
  • Population frequency
  • Pathogenicity
  • Conservation (how often it’s changed across a species)
  • The name of the variant itself (starting with rs and then a string of numbers) with a link to the NIH report with even more information

Needless to say, there’s a ton of information you can find from the gene analysis tool. However, if you don’t know where to start, you might not find as much use out of it as someone who knows that they want to check their genome for specific information.

Genome browser

If the gene analysis tool isn’t enough explicit data for you, the genome browser packs a serious scientific punch. Based on the Interactive Genome Viewer developed at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, this tool allows you to look at the CRAM file – available for you to download and keep on your own – and see yourself from a geneticists’ point of view. Here, you can take a direct look at the sequencing data in fine detail.

You can find things in the genome browser using either the gene name (such as APOE) or genome location (the coordinates of a specific variant within a gene). Finding the coordinate of a variant does require looking it up in an outside database; be sure to use the GRCh38 coordinates if you do because different sequencing techniques produce different coordinates.

Searching for a gene within the browser creates a beautiful picture of gray lines with little colored lines and arrows. Zooming in closer can give you a handful of letters in those colorful areas. While Nebula Genomics does a good job explaining further (if you only see gray at a point, you have the “normal” alleles; if you see letters, it’s a mutation or variant), it’s still a complicated tool that requires a substantial amount of time and outside knowledge to work with.

The Nebula Genomics customer experience

Ordering your kit

Getting started with Nebula Genomics is as easy as ordering anything else online. All you’ll need to do is pick out which of the three plans you’d like to use and add it to your cart. Once it’s there, pick out your subscription rate – you won’t be charged until after your results are ready. You can pay using any major credit card, PayPal, or Venmo. Nebula Genomics offers free shipping worldwide, so you won’t have to worry about extra payments sneaking up on you.

No matter what plan you’ve chosen, your kit will ship 2-3 days after you order it.

Creating an account

At this stage, we also recommend making an account. While you won’t have anything to upload nor a kit ID to add, it’ll save you time down the road and make things easier to navigate.

Creating an account is also simple and straightforward: input your name and email address, then set a password and verify your email address. Nebula Genomics also sends you an email encouraging you to create an account in advance when they ship your kit.

Testing

For our testers, the kits shipped two days after ordering and arrived after four days in transit for a total of six days between ordering our Nebula Genomics kits and finding them at our doors. Once they arrived, it was time to test.

Nebula Genomics uses a very typical cheek swab test, so the kit included:

  • Instruction sheet, kit ID number facing up
  • Biohazard bag
  • Two cheek swabs
  • Vial with solution for holding swabs
  • Small biohazard bag for shipping
  • Prepaid return bubble mailer

The instructions are exceptionally clear. Before you do anything else, register your kit ID. (This is where having an account already set up comes in handy, but it’s not the end of the world if you need to make one at this point.) Adding your kit ID to your account is simple – there are multiple places on the account page itself to add it – and ensures that your results are linked to your account so you can access them.

Once your kit ID is attached to your account, you can take the cheek swab sample following Nebula Genomics’ in-depth instructions. This does ask for one-minute swabs (running the soft part of the swab in circles on the inside of your cheek for one minute) on each side, which can be a little uncomfortable because your mouth can dry out. Other than that, it’s an easy process that shouldn’t take longer than five minutes from start to finish.

Insider Tip: The instruction guide says you’ll need to cut the swabs at the black line to ensure they fit in the test tubes. But before you pull out your scissors: Nebula Genomics has updated their swabs (just not their instruction guide). The swabs are now perforated, so you can just break the swab at exactly the right point by bending it over the edge of the test tube.

Once you’re done, screw the cap onto the vial, drop it in the small biohazard bag, and put the biohazard bag into the prepaid return envelope. Nebula Genomics doesn’t provide tracking information while the package is on its way back, but once your sample has arrived in the lab, your account page will change. You’ll see a page stating that your sample has made it to the lab and that it’s currently undergoing testing. Testing and analyzing the sample takes up to 12 weeks to complete.

Surveys

While you wait for your results, Nebula Genomics offers 12 different surveys that you can do. These ask for personal information and are entirely optional. There’s no punishment or information that you don’t get from your results should you not partake in the surveys.

Surveys Interface

Instead of getting more information through your results, Nebula Genomics has an interesting offer: you can earn 50 credits for every survey you take. If you earn 1,000 credits, Nebula Genomics gives you a free Basic kit for genomic analysis, worth $99. Of course, since there are only 12 surveys, this can only bring you to 600 credits total, so at this time you won’t be able to self-fund a genomic test through surveys. However, you can also invite friends and family to try Nebula Genomics with a referral link; everyone who orders a test through your link will net you another 100 credits, for up to five referrals or 500 credits.

Nebula Genomics’ surveys ask for personal information to help them investigate links between genetic markers and lifestyle or phenotypic habits. These surveys are about:

  • Basic information
  • Alcohol
  • Cancers
  • Diet
  • Fitness
  • Health
  • Medications
  • Occupation
  • Rare diseases
  • Sleep
  • Smoking
  • Nebula and EMD Serono study

The EMD Serono study is of particular note, as it’s one of the only times Nebula Genomics partners with a third party. It’s a collaborative project with EMD Serono, the business behind pharmaceutical giant Merck’s German branch, to begin studying the role of lung cancer mutations in drug response. The survey doesn’t ask for personal information but looks to see if you’re qualified to participate in the study. Even if you aren’t qualified, you can still earn credits for trying.

Getting results

Once your sample has made it back to the lab, you get a confirmation email. From there, it takes up to 12 weeks for the sample to be fully processed and your results to become available. This is longer than most other genetic testing services, which average a wait time of 5-8 weeks, but the service is scaled appropriately considering the sheer volume of data you get from it. Our testers got their results back in an average of 11 weeks, slightly shorter than predicted.

Once your information is ready, you get another email with a link welcoming you back to the site. From there, you can click through the Traits, Nebula Library, Gene Analysis, and Gene Browser. If you’re interested in doing some Deep Ancestry research, you can also then upload those results to YFull (though full turnover and processing takes a few days).

Downloading your information

Nebula Genomics believes that you should have agency with your genetic information and takes steps to prove they’re serious. When your results are ready, you can download all of your genetic data. This comes in five files you can pick and choose from:

  • CRAM (a compressed BAM file that contains your reconstructed genome)
  • CRAI (indexing information for the CRAM file)
  • FASTQ (two text files that contain your raw sequencing data)
  • VCF (a text file with a list of your genetic variants)
  • TBI (indexing information for your VCF file)

Insider Tip: Be sure you’re in a place with strong WiFi or Ethernet connection when you’re ready to download your data – the files end up being a little more than 150GB in total. It took our testers about three hours to download a Deep plan’s worth of information at fiber-optic speeds.

This data is available automatically for the first two weeks after your information is available, but if you want it after, you can request access. However, you’ll need to wait 48 hours to get your information if you request access later.

Customer support

If you want to get in touch with customer support, Nebula Genomics currently only offers one way to contact their team. Submit a help form using a drop-down menu – no instant messaging, direct emails, or phone calls available. The form asks for:

  • Your name
  • A subject line
  • Why you’re reaching out (product support, kit ID, upload service, account issues, orders/shipping, upgrades)
  • Description of your request
  • Any attachments, if you have them

You should get a response back shortly. Our testers found that it took an average of 20 hours to get a response, and most of the time that response was an automated message saying that they were rerouting our question to an appropriate channel. Real answers often took between three days and two weeks of waiting between asking a question and getting help.

To minimize your potential questions, Nebula Genomics provides multiple tutorials, blog posts, and FAQs with just about every question imaginable answered. Whether you’re trying to find where to learn your genetic risk for a particular trait or are curious about how to upgrade your plan, the FAQ will have what you need while you’re waiting for a response.

Privacy

Knowing your entire exome opens up a huge risk of privacy concerns, but Nebula Genomics has already foreseen them and put measures in place to protect you. They are extremely well-secured and private, using blockchain technology to improve transparency and control over your genetic data. It records your consent settings and access to your data, allowing you to audit exactly who’s seen your information and when. This multiparty access control system doesn’t rely on one platform to host it and reduces the likelihood of security breaches or unauthorized access. Whether or not this blockchain technology actually improves the security quality is yet to be determined since it is so new.

There are options for you to share your genetic information with social media, as well as to share information about your lifestyle and habits through Nebula Genomics’ surveys, but Nebula Genomics never shares your information with third parties without your consent. They might use some personal information as part of a statistic, but they will never include any identifying information or isolate your info (always as aggregate data).

Oasis Labs – the third party they partner with to run your actual genetic tests – is a CLIA-certified laboratory. This means that they work using the top standards of security, privacy, and quality.

Alternatives

23andMe

23andMe is one of the most well-known names in genetic testing and for a good reason. There are two different versions of 23andMe: one which covers only your ancestry and another which dives into your genetic health predispositions (23andMe Health). But no matter which plan you pick, 23andMe has a lot it can reveal to you.

The 23andMe Health pack analyzes your DNA for a wide variety of traits, including:

  • Ancestry
  • Physical traits (such as flat feet and eye color)
  • Health predispositions (such as gestational diabetes and eczema)
  • Carrier status (if you carry – but don’t display traits for – genetic illnesses, such as sickle cell anemia)
  • Wellness (such as caffeine sensitivity)
  • Pharmacogenetics (how you metabolize medications)

23andMe is the only at-home genetic test approved by the FDA, meaning it is the only one you can order for yourself without professional medical guidance. You can also use it as medical advice and pay for it with HSA or FSA funds. It covers less ground than Nebula – as does almost every genetic test you can order – but points out many important bits of information, such as whether or not you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (which are very closely tied to breast and ovarian cancer).

Interested in what you’ve heard about 23andMe? Read our full review for more information.

Sequencing.com

As one of the only other at-home whole-genome tests, Sequencing.com provides a unique edge. They’ve compiled hundreds of analysis options – some free, some paid – to let you pick and choose exactly what you want to know from your genetics. You can test yourself over and over again to screen for different predispositions, trends, and statuses without having to repeatedly spit in a tube. Rather, all you need to do is upload your information from another service like 23andMe or AncestryDNA, and Sequencing.com provides that data (anonymized, so none of the services can trace it back to you) to the additional apps.

Sequencing.com uses bank-level security to keep your information private and unhackable as well. You’ll need to pay a hefty fee for marketplace access, however – the cost of a lifetime Nebula membership or more every year.

You can read more about Sequencing.com in our full review.

Toolbox Genomics

So you’ve read all about your genome but don’t know what to do next. Toolbox Genomics makes using your genetic knowledge easy. While they won’t test your entire genome, they test many key SNPs, lumping them together not by study but by ultimate function. And when you’re done reading about your predispositions, you can look at your epigenetics to see how well your body is aging and how well it is taking to your care. You can also click through their action plans to see how they suggest eating and working out based on your genetic predispositions.

While the product itself is still very much a work in progress, a full genetic and epigenetic test currently costs $249, so Toolbox Genomics is a great deal.

Check out our review of Toolbox Genomics here for more information.

Invitae

Invitae is a dual professional and at-home genetic testing service. However, they have a much broader selection of pick-and-choose genetic tests. They offer six panels, including:

  • Carrier screening
  • Cardiovascular screening
  • Cancer screening
  • Pharmacogenetics panel
  • Genetic health screen
  • Diagnostic panel

The diagnostic panel, in particular, is unique. Partner with your primary medical provider or a telehealth doctor who works with Invitae to discuss your symptoms and concerns. The provider orders a specific set of genetic testing options to see if you have any genetic diseases or disorders that might contribute to your symptoms.

Opening medical genetic tests up to the masses with the help of genetic counselors and middle-men to work with insurance on your behalf, Invitae makes it possible to test yourself for genetic disorders without having to jump through hoops for months. Most of the time, tests cost $250 or less out-of-pocket, making Invitae an affordable option even without insurance.

Genetic counseling

Reading and understanding your genetics can bring up some harrowing topics if you aren’t prepared. Sometimes, though, no amount of mental preparation can get you ready for heavy or shocking news. Suppose you have any out-of-the-ordinary symptoms, a family history of genetic abnormalities, or find something you weren’t expecting from your genomic test. In that case, a genetic counselor can always help.

Many specialize in cancer and congenital disabilities, but not everyone does, and even those who do can help you reframe your situation. They can test for a range of health-related traits more precisely than a non-medical service like Nebula Genomics but won’t be able to map your full genome for you. And while you’ll have to jump through the standard hoops of meeting with a doctor in person, you can rest easy knowing that you’re getting treatment from someone with a deep understanding of genetics.

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