How Can Blockchain Be Implemented in the Life Sciences Ecosystem?

Blockchain erupted into public discourse as the distributed ledger technology that acts as the foundation of the digital currency Bitcoin. Fundamentally …

Blockchain erupted into public discourse as the distributed ledger technology that acts as the foundation of the digital currency Bitcoin. Fundamentally, a blockchain is a growing, real-time list of electronic records, with each block unit containing a timestamp, information about the previous block in the chain and data. The blockchain architecture is therefore resistant to the modification of data or its provenance. Fintech quickly recognized the potential of blockchain, with multiple use cases now implemented in areas such as financial transactions and service/product life cycles. For the life sciences industry, blockchain has the potential to enhance cross-industry partnerships, integrity and trust built on consensus, interoperability, tracing, and tracking of tangible and intangible entities in many service and product pipelines.

A recent report published by PreScouter reviewed three broad areas of blockchain deployment in the healthcare, biopharmaceutical, and medical technology sectors as well as the challenges these sectors need to overcome for wider adoption. The report also enumerates developing use cases of blockchain, from proof-of-concept to real-world large-scale deployments, and identifies first movers/early adopters of blockchain, including key collaborations, across the pharma, biotech and healthcare industries.

Challenges to wider blockchain adoption in the life sciences

Within the life sciences sector, blockchain use cases are complex to implement, and the rapidly changing landscape of blockchain technology also presents a challenge for companies seeking to adopt.“Blockchain has great potential to improve upon various activities within the life sciences sector, although it still has a number of challenges when it comes to adoption,” says Dr. Charles Wright, co-author and PreScouter Technical Director for the healthcare and life sciences industry. The consensus opinion is that changing the mindset of private, public and political leadership for adopting blockchain technology and the requisite change in management is the single greatest hurdle facing blockchain deployment, adds Dr. Wright.



As the technology matures, experts believe that mainstream adoption will be rapid. It is predicted that the value added by blockchains will grow to $176 billion by 2025 including non-financial uses in the life sciences, according to Gartner. Even with blockchain adoption gaining traction, PreScouter identifies 10 key challenges to wider adoption of the technology (seen in figure below).


Figure: Main Challenges to Adoption of Blockchain in Healthcare. Source: PreScouter.



The three life science fields impacted by blockchain:

The PreScouter report identifies drug development and supply chain management, clinical trials management and patient-centric usage as three areas with the most potential for blockchain adoption and impact.

Drug development and supply chain management

In the areas of drug manufacturing and supply chain management, blockchain can be very effective for ensuring integrity. Provenance and tracking of compounds are two key areas that are under the purview of authorities such as the FDA, with oversight through the Drug Supply Chain Security Act. Blockchain can provide immutable batch records of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in the manufacturing process and easy reporting systems for adverse events and drug batch recall.



Current processes that permit drug provenance and supply chain tracking are fragmented due to data silos and can lead to human errors as well as fraud. One example of blockchain implementation by a public-private collaboration is that between the FDA and IBM. The collaboration is using blockchain to identify, track, and trace prescription medicines and vaccines distributed throughout the country. Another example is the MediLedger Project that brings together a consortium of drug manufacturers and distributors to track/trace drug batches and improve drug supply chain management using internet-of-things (IoT) principles.

Clinical trials management

The PreScouter report also highlights that blockchain technology is impacting the complex processes integrated into the design, implementation and management of clinical trials. Clinical trials have many stakeholders, including patients/study subjects, study sponsors, drug/medical device providers, clinical investigators, healthcare professionals like physicians and nurses and various government regulatory bodies.



Sensitive data, including patients’ health records and a clinical trial’s outcomes, must remain private and secure. The trial protocol itself must be immutable and transparent. However, the entire process has to be conducted transparently for all stakeholders with protocols strictly adhered to. Moreover, secure communication between stakeholders from different professions and multiple clinical trial sites can be inefficient and can easily compromise protected health information.

Clinical trials therefore are perfect for blockchain technology, which allows for immutability, scalability and traceability of records with varied data access permissive levels. A blockchain could help manage patient consent, maintain trial protocols, track patient samples as well as ensure secure communications between trial sites. An initiative by Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) and IBM in Canada, where BI will manage its clinical trials on blockchain technology provided by IBM, was recently inked in 2019.

The company Triall, with its technology partner Sphereon, is developing applications for improving auditability and operational efficiency in clinical trials. The consortium’s Verial application, a clinical document management solution, is being used in a Phase II clinical trial and is touted as the world’s first clinical trial in production on a blockchain.

Patient-centric usage

Finally, PreScouter highlights the potential impact of blockchain technology on activities that surround a patient, which can be termed patient-centric blockchain usage. These use cases are varied and include implementation of “smart contracts” for patient consent and ownership management of health data, patient record management across siloed healthcare data landscapes, prescription medicine management, patient claims and billings management, data security for medical/wearable technology as well as deployment in personalized medicine.



Blockchain implementation has achieved the most traction in patient-centric usage as seen by the number of early collaborations that are underway. A leader in blockchain implementation in Europe is Guardtime, which collaborates with Estonian Health authorities and the National Health Service in the UK for tracking and managing patient consent to use of their health data. Another application is the Prescrypt project, spearheaded by Deloitte in the Netherlands, which blockchains a patient’s drug prescriptions for secure communication, usage tracking and analysis by healthcare professionals.

The takeaway

The blockchain implementation in the life sciences is gaining traction and the authors of the report identify that the key challenge to blockchain adoption is non-technical and non-regulatory. It is rather changing the mindset of private, public and political leadership for adopting blockchain technology. However, they provide a positive outlook for the implementation of blockchain in the healthcare space in the near future. Dr. Rakesh Joshi, a co-author of the report, believes that, “as the technology matures and early use cases emerge to help mitigate risks, more mainstream adoption is to be expected within the next 5 years, which will enable blockchain technology to bear its fruits in the life sciences ecosystem.

Rakesh, one of PreScouter’s advanced degree researchers, is a life sciences professional with a passion for data-driven analytics and discovery. He earned his PhD is Biochemistry from Purdue University. Currently, he is enrolled in the Schulich School of Business at York University diving deeper into machine learning/artificial intelligence and technology-driven strategic planning & management.

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CDC and WHO’s Coronavirus data, visualised from a blockchain

“Healthcare and public health is a key area where Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) can provide computational trust, and serve as a source of …

CoronavirusAcoer, developer of blockchain-enabled applications, is helping its healthcare and life sciences clients to easily track and visualize the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak. It will do this using its HashLog data visualisation engine which uses the Hedera Hashgraph blockchain.

There is a growing supply of data about the virus, but the information is not necessarily easy to visualize, consume, or extract in a simple way,” said Jim Nasr, CEO of Acoer. “With HashLog our objective is to make data collection automated, and data visualization rich, dynamic, and intuitive. Particularly with my own public health background and tenure at the CDC, we are also huge believers that supporting public health is an incredibly important mission and as much as we can do, it is our responsibility to innovate to enhance it.

Jim Nasr, CEO of Acoer
Jim Nasr, CEO of Acoer

Coronavirus and a blockchain

Hedera Hashgraph is an enterprise-grade public ledger. The Coronavirus HashLog dashboard enables researchers, scientists and journalists to understand the spread of the virus and trends over time. To do this it holds a wide set of public data, including data from:

  • the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
  • the World Health Organization (WHO).

HashLog will provide real-time visualisation of Coronavirus data and trends including:

  • confirmed cases
  • deaths and recoveries per hundred infections
  • trends over time
  • interactive views – with dynamic sort and filtering capabilities
  • the ability to download or extract directly from those visualisations.

Healthcare and public health is a key area where Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) can provide computational trust, and serve as a source of truth for multiple parties to work from, delivering consistent, factual information across distributed communities,” said Mance Harmon, CEO of Hedera Hashgraph. “Acoer’s work to make this Coronavirus data so easy to visualize and understand is a great example of this, and we commend them for this innovative use of DLT for the public good.

Mance Harmon
Mance Harmon

Acoer

Acoer builds blockchain-enabled applications. These seek to ensure computational trust, transparency and auditable data by providing a secure and tamper-proof environment.

HashLog is a data collection and visualisation tool. It includes three sub-projects:

  • Health Data Explorer – a platform to support and improve medicolegal death investigation
  • Knowledge Seeker – a data analytics dashboard about clinical trials, dementia or mortality data
  • Ledger Explorer – this is a transaction explorer and analytics platform for Hedera Hashgraph which uses decentralised ledger technology (DLT or blockchain).

Coronavirus

Enterprise Times: what does this mean

While the initial significance of the new Coronavirus infection was not fully appreciated, its rapid growth in Hubei province and then its spread through China and the wider world has driven a need for tools. This is what Acoer, with HashLog brings, broadening the information base.

From a blockchain perspective the HashLog/Hedera Hashgroup combination adds to the credibility of digital ledger technology. That the service is free for use is an added confirmation.

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Hyperledger’s Behlendorf on embracing Ethereum, why enterprise blockchain will be permissioned …

The royal flush of enterprise blockchain approaches … that there’s a major missing approach to building distributed ledger now inside Hyperledger.

This is the first part of an extensive interview with Hyperledger Director Brian Behlendorf in advance of the Hyperledger Global Forum which takes place in Phoenix USA on March 3-6. Register by February 18th to get the discounted rates.

Highlights

  • Hyperledger to serve as a bridge across the spectrum of permissioned to permissionless blockchains
  • Hyperledger has a royal flush of different approaches to enterprise blockchain
  • Unsure if there’s room for a seventh, but possible consolidation
  • Enterprise Ethereum Alliance compared to Hyperledger: standards versus software
  • Permissioned networks need to become more decentralized
  • Vast majority of transactions will be on permissioned blockchains indefinitely

Thejourney started with a 2016 visit to Shanghai

Behlendorf: I guess the kind of biggest thing that came in last year was Hyperledger Besu, and one of my first trips as the leader of this project was to China in 2016 to the second Ethereum Devcon in Shanghai. Mainly I wanted to go because I wanted to learn more about Ethereum. And I actually had met Vitalik and Bo Shen when they did their original ICO fundraise for this a year earlier.

Butreally, I wanted to see what the developer community was like aroundit and be super sharp about where we were going to positionHyperledger when it came to permissioned versus permissionlessblockchains.

Becausecertainly at the time, and even to a large extent today, thetechnology worlds behind public and permissioned are very differentand very different consensus mechanisms; very different algorithms;communities of developers with very different ideas about use casesand that sort of thing.

Aspectrum from permissioned to public

Butwhat became clear to me while there, was that it was eventually goingto be more of a spectrum. That as permissioned blockchains gotlarger, they would probably need to inherit and learn from theexperiences and maybe even adopt some of the algorithms that thepublic ledger communities were starting to pioneer.

Notso much around proof of work. I think there’s still a lot ofskepticism in the enterprise space around that, if only for theenergy load, that sort of thing. And not so much for the DAOdistributed autonomous organization kind of automated robotization ofmanagement kind of ideas.

But partly for how do you do these things really at scale? And so I felt it was important to have an olive branch out to that community. And make sure that as the permissioned side of the blockchain world grew in acceptance and deployment, that we could evolve Hyperledger to a point where it could serve as a bridge across the spectrum.

Hyperledger Global Forum

Iwas still pretty adamant I did not want Hyperledger to be running amain net or a token. I told people that you’ll never see a hypercoin. I still believe that. And thereby avoid the minting money outof thin air kind of thing.

ConsenSyswas part of original 2015 Hyperledger cohort

LikeI said, it was important to be close to the technology, and thatmeant being close to ConsenSys. ConsenSys was one of the companieswhich was in the initial cohort ofcompaniesinvolved with Hyperledger at the announcement in 2015, and they werearound for a year. They kind of went off and focused on publicblockchains and the ICO market for a while.

Butstarting about two years ago, they cameback around and realized the enterprise space was going to beimportant to them. And prior to last year, one project came in calledBurrow, which was a tiny piece of Ethereum technology, as well as arelationship with the EnterpriseEthereum Alliance.

Sowhen ConsenSys said: “Hey, we’ve been building this alternativestack for Ethereum enterprise technologies that could run both publicmain net Ethereum, as well as permissioned blockchains, and we’rebuilding it to be Apache licensed,” it felt like ready-made forHyperledger.

Soa lot of diplomacy, (we had) a lot of conversations with engineersabout how open source works, but also how Hyperledger’s communityworks, through a lot of conversations with the existing Hyperledgercommunity leaders. We brought in Besuand had a very frank and public conversation about how all of thisshould work. And that led to the project being accepted. And now it’sin.

Theroyal flush of enterprise blockchain approaches

I’mnot going to say that we’re done adding new frameworks. But the sixthat we have now represent a pretty royal flush of all the differentkinds of approaches I think you could take to building enterpriseblockchains.

Fabric,which is very much like the granddaddy of the project, it just hit2.0. You saw the announcementof that. It’s still the most widely deployed enterprise blockchainplatform out there. Very flexible, very much an operating system,very generalizable.

Andthen, we’ve got the one focused on identity (Indy).You’ve got the one focused on digital assets, Iroha.The one focused on being a bridge to public and private being Besu.And then Sawtoothwhich is still a more experimental platform. Those six (includingBurrow),I don’t know if there’s room for a seventh, to be honest.

Thecommunity will decide

Thegood news is it’s not up to me. It’s really up to the community.

The community had to be convinced there is room for Besu, as a number six. I would say we might even consider seeing consolidation before we see expansion of that set, but anything’s possible.

It’shard for me to say that there’s a major missing approach to buildingdistributed ledger now inside Hyperledger.

AnotherEthereum link – Hyperledger Avalon

We’vehad a few other projects come in recently, such as HyperledgerAvalon, which is the main other one that I’ll highlight. Avalonis an implementation, actually again it’s Ethereum related because itis implementing a specification that came out of the EnterpriseEthereum Alliance around what they call the TrustedCompute Framework.

It’sa generalizable way of trying to describe privacy on blockchains,whether that’s implemented through secure enclaves, like Intel’schips or through zero-knowledge systems. And in doing that it mightbe a way for us to bring that better balance between confidentialityand auditability, which is the whole point of using blockchainsanyways. If you want confidential, don’t put it on a blockchain,right?

Butwhat we also want is the ability to, you know, track spending, theability to track a diamond as it goes through the supply chainwithout revealing every intermediary’s complete business flows.

Soproject Avalon is really about moving us further along those lines asa whole community. It’s more of a library. It’s more of a set ofconcepts and tools right now. But I hope that we’ll start to see thefirst deployment of that into at least pilot environments this year.

Q:Can you clarify your relationship with the Enterprise EthereumAlliance (EEA)? Because as an outsider you look like you have moreand more overlap.

SoI see some pretty sharp distinctions. One is, and this is true in alot of other technology domains, it’s really, really good to have astandards body in a domain separate from the leading open sourceproject in a domain or from the open source projects in a domain.

Thekinds of stakeholders you want to pull together around a standard.The kinds of IP processes you want to manage in the development of astandard. The fact that (for) a standard, once you eventually set it,it (should) not really be changed all that often. So there’s a lot ofpressure when you publish it to make sure you’ve gotten it exactlyright.

Whereaswith software these days, you know, being agile and publishingupdates frequently and continuing to refine and add features, thatsort of thing is important.

Allof these lead to very different collaboration cultures and differentorganizational structures, even different agreements between theparticipants. And so we’ve always said that Hyperledger is not astandards body. And it’s important for somebody else out there to bedoing that kind of work.

Ifnot the EEA then another standards body

Soif the EEA hadn’t come along, I would expect that you would have seensome other type of enterprise blockchain standards alliance comealong that perhaps wasn’t directly focused on Ethereum. Andobviously, there’s standards efforts at ISO and the identity relatedstandards work and a couple of other works, and all that iscompletely compatible with Hyperledger.

It’snice for the development teams at Hyperledger to have the choice ofwhich standards to implement, how quickly, and potentially even comeup with new de facto standards that could eventually get proposedupstream to somebody else’s standards body.

Sothat’s going to be a pretty sharp distinction between us and the EEA.And that’s borne fruit for us in, for example, project Avalon.Hyperledger being able to now take this standard defined elsewhereand build implementations of it. So that’s something that I think isimportant to keep in mind. And it’s always good to know where theboundaries are in any relationship like this. That’s just kept itvery productive.

Q:Do you have any views on the path of some applications moving ontopublic?

Ithink it’s inevitable that there will be some applications running onthe public ledger networks. DeFi seems to be the kind of thing takingoff there. But I think the vast majority of transactions for ageneration at least, and I don’t see any reason why this changesafter the generation frankly, will take place on permissionedblockchains.

Thereasons for that include a blockchain use case will probably define acertain jurisdictional kind of coverage. This blockchain is governedby the laws of country X or GDPR or something like that. And often,those regulations will have some sort of data residency requirements,and privacy requirements that will be really hard to enforce if youdon’t have the ability to bind all the different participants with acopy of the dataset to a set of agreements.

Hopefully,you can use smart contracts and others to provide a lot ofconfidentiality. But you know, if you and I have some sort ofbusiness arrangement and you end up with a copy of data, there’s nosmart contract in the world that can delete that data out of yourhands if I wished it.

Therehas to be, in many cases, a contractual relationship between partiesthat describes the use of that data no matter how thoroughly we’veencrypted it on whatever blockchain we’re using. And so for mostparticipants, most people, they’ll want that kind of agreement boundinto the network.

Permissionedbut more decentralized

Nowthe thing that permissioned networks need to do is themselves be moredecentralized than many of the ones that you see today. I think, manyof these networks that have launched, they’re still somewhat in theirearly stages, where it makes sense to have one technology partner tohelp bootstrap to get everyone on board and push it forward.

Butmy take is, as soon as they’re in production, you should be open toadding nodes to that network, not only from other end users. If it’sa banking network from other banks, that sort of thing if theyqualify and are able to sign whatever participation agreement isrequired. But also from other technology providers, from other cloudproviders or from nodes that are hosted by the end users themselves.

Ithink if you do that, and then I think if you also make it easy forsmall and midsize businesses to either participate as kind of fullyvested citizens on a blockchain, able to submit transactions, reviewtransactions, confirm the validity of transactions. Or do thatthrough an intermediary of some sort, with the choice of who to trustin doing that. If you make it easy for small, midsize businesses tojoin these blockchains, then that basically erases the advantage ofdoing some of these things as a public blockchain, which isaccessibility.

Accessibilityand blurry lines between permissioned and public

Arguablythat’s the main reason why advocates of public blockchains forenterprise use cases are advocates. They say it’s because then youdon’t have to ask anybody for permission. You just jump on and startengaging. I have no doubt that even enterprise stuff done on publicchains will still implement access control, or KYC (know yourcustomer) or some other type of criteria threshold in order toparticipate.

Andso I think this is why I’m saying that the line between permissionedand public will get awfully blurry. I do think that the vast majorityof transactions will be taking place on permissioned blockchainsindefinitely. Just because that’s an architectural model that mosttechnologists and most companies are going to find more familiar.


Image Copyright: Ledger Insights, Hyperledger

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Ethereum (ETH) Remains Biggest Gainer of Dapps in 2019

Ethereum (ETH) saw the strongest growth in its distributed app ecosystem, breaking the expectations that other projects would displace it. It turned out …

Ethereum (ETH) saw the strongest growth in its distributed app ecosystem, breaking the expectations that other projects would displace it. It turned out the primacy of Ethereum was not so easy to dispute, and novel networks promising better and cheaper computation were actually empty, hosting almost no dApps.

Ethereum showed growth in all dApp categories, including gaming, gambling, collectibles, and decentralized finance (DeFi). Ethereum also revealed significant dApp volumes based on token usage, expanding the economy.

https://twitter.com/DappRadar/status/1211598194251096065

Networks like Tezos show almost no activity, as well as other alternative platforms that claimed to be “Ethereum killers”. EOS and TRON, on the other hand, saw their dApp activity diminished by the appearance of simulated mining.

Dapp usage may also be limited by large, centralized app storefronts, as Google and Apple may be reassessing their approach to carrying crypto-related mobile apps.

The biggest threat for the Ethereum network will be the activity of HEX. The project still claims to be gathering ETH, while distributing HEX tokens. The scheme may lead to loss of credibility, and subsequently to ETH dumping.

The biggest challenge for Ethereum would be completing its upcoming hard forks, and eventually switching to ETH 2.0. The next network update, though small and relatively straightforward, comes this January 1. The network will push back the difficulty increase, to allow mining to continue at a more regular pace.

ETH market prices will also face challenges in 2019. Recent analysis shows the coin can be weighed down by multiple “whale” wallets, if they decide to sell. DeFi is also a chance to slowly phase off ETH assets.

ETH traded at $133.81, after a relatively robust recovery and a bounce from lows around $125. But ETH has failed the predictions for a more significant rally.

by Christine Masters, 1 hr ago

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Bayern Munich Tokens Sell for Over $30000

According to Stryking, the Ethereum-based NFTs are unique cryptographic tokens with the “…rarity, authenticity, and ownership secured and …

Seven bundles of Stryking’s official Bayern Munich non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have been sold at auction for 240.9649 ETH, equivalent to approximately $31,100. One full set of the special Christmas 2019 Edition collection, featuring 24 players from Germany’s most successful football club, went for 133 ETH (around $16,700) while the remaining six bundles contained four cards each.

The value of each four card set varied from 33.9 ETH down to 4.4 ETH depending on the status of the players they portrayed. Top price was paid for the international quartet of Robert Lewandowski, Sven Ulreich, Kingsley Coman and Ivan Perišić.

The numbers dont lie for the excitement around the @stryking_io Holiday Auctions as according to @opensea we had a 6000% increase in the ETH value of sales from the past week!#blockchain#crypto#cryptocurrency#Dapps#ETH#ethereum#bayernmünchen#Bayern#NFT#technewspic.twitter.com/GV7MZwa2FV

— stryking.io (@stryking_io) December 29, 2019

The sale saw a spike in interest for Berlin-based Stryking products with performance analytic charts logging an impressive 6000% increase on the previous week. Until the sale, Stryking were probably best known for Football-Stars, their web and mobile gaming platform aimed at European fans.

Sporting Connections

Stryking made news in 2018 when they garnered support from Portuguese star Luis Figo and are now a subsidiary of Animoca Brands after being acquired in September this year. Animoca Brands have themselves previously enjoyed NFT auction successes with their official connection with Formula 1 motor racing.

Not resting on their laurels, Stryking have already started a second sale for Bayern Munich NFTs – called New Year 2020 Edition Legendary Player Cards – which will run until 6 January.

Ready for some Fireworks? 🎇Our New Year #FCBayern Special Edition cards are out‼️‼️⚽️ Auction is on, make sure to get yours at https://t.co/PsYOU9UxsG#NFT#digitalcollectibles#Blockchain#TokenSalespic.twitter.com/7jDcgn5lPW

— stryking.io (@stryking_io) December 30, 2019

According to Stryking, the Ethereum-based NFTs are unique cryptographic tokens with the “…rarity, authenticity, and ownership secured and guaranteed by blockchain technology.”

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