Harvard athlete starts cryptocurrency to fund cancer research

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Courtesy Niko Katsuyoshi

By Zachary Anderson, AsAmNews Contributor

When Niko Katsuyoshi was 12 years old, his grandfather died of cancer–– in his own words, he described it as “watching him take his final breathes” to the disease.

His grandfather was not the first in his family that cancer would take. Last November, the disease also took a close aunt on his father’s side.

“It was kind of a wake-up call for me,” Katsuyoshi told AsAmNews.

Eight years after losing his grandfather and two months after losing his aunt, Katsuyoshi–– now 20 years old and studying economics at Harvard–– launched a cryptocurrency to fund cancer research called AntidoteDAO.

“I’ve seen the power of crypto-fundraising,” said Katsuyoshi, “you can raise funds globally with one type of digital currency.”

Born and raised south of San Jose in Morgan Hill, California–– Katsuyoshi grew up not far from where some of his ancestors worked in the strawberry fields after immigrating from Japan. The son of a firefighter and HR director, he had a middle-class upbringing and excelled in both academics and sports–– most notably wrestling.

“Growing up with Niko, surrounded by not much but small towns, kind hearts, and big dreams really exemplifies the person he is and the great things he will do,” childhood friend Kenneth Bui told AsAmNews.

Katsuyoshi attended high school in Pennsylvania at the elite private school Wyoming Seminary where he also wrestled and attracted the attention of numerous wrestling programs at Ivy League schools. But after meeting the coaching staff at Harvard, he chose to go there.

“Harvard’s always been my dream school,” said Katsuyoshi.

There he networked and collaborated with fellow students who would become part of the core team behind AnitdoteDAO.

“Working with Niko, you quickly realize that his witty and composed character makes him a good founder and a reliable co-worker,” Karen Marie Funding Lyster told AsAmNews. “The team also experience this, and I believe that the effort of keeping the Antidote DAO community in focus differentiates his approach to entrepreneurship. Hence, making working with him engaging.”

When somebody buys into AntidoteDAO, a portion of its sales–– around five percent according to Katsuyoshi–– go to some form of cancer research.

“In a typical company or charity, governance is highly centralized,” said Katsuyoshi. “But in the structure we want to build, everyone who owns tokens has a say in where that donation money goes; whether it’s funding patients or funding research.”

As of this writing, AntidoteDAO has only raised $2,500 dollars for cancer research. The vast majority, if not all, of those funds were donated to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which has provided over a thousand grants for cancer research at 150 institutions.

However, Katsuyoshi’s work has also attracted the attention of other prominent figures in both the crypto and healthcare spaces, such as Paul Kohlhaas, a founder of VitaDAO which has raised millions of dollars for longevity research.

According to Katsuyoshi, AntidoteDAO will pursue other projects to advance its mission like launching an NFT collection where 90 percent of the funds raised from those sales will be donated.

“Ultimately I want this to be able to run on its own,” said Katsuyoshi. “I want this to be hands-off and community-run and that the community has control of the project.”

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