Blockchain in healthcare updates
A dense and important article detailing a list of regulatory considerations for blockchain’s usage in clinical research. The authors did a good job highlighting the various different areas developers and policy makers need to pay attention to, and provided a series of recommendations:
Education for researchers and regulators
Engagement between researchers and regulators
Sandbox for design and development
Administrative blockchain pilots
Clinical research pilots
Clear and consistent data privacy protections
There is an interesting follow up article to be written about the unique compliance challenges for blockchain consortia. In consortia organizations join together to use shared infrastructure, which has great business benefits, but it also means that each individual organization gives up a degree of control over this infrastructure. It’s not hard to see how this could be problematic if another actor does something non-compliant, which will inevitably happen as these networks scale. Managing these non-compliant actions and reducing liability when using shared infrastructure will be challenging.
Another look at Jose Arrieta’s project HHS Accelerate, a very successful deployment of a blockchain used for procurement. Jose was appointed to CIO of the HHS in May of this year.
I spent this weekend at ETHWaterloo, a blockchain hackathon
My very talented colleague Tyler Farnan and I teamed up to implement machine learning on-chain within Enigma smart contracts (which are also private!). That means you could train a machine learning model on-chain (or plug in an existing model), charge people to use it, pay people to contribute their data, manage it with a DAO, etc. We used 1upHealth to be able to pull health data, but used Synthea to generate thousands of synthetic FHIR standardized health records, for creating an algorithm that could tell if you were at high risk of a particular heart disease (ATTR-CM).
Long story short we ran into some esoteric bugs with Rust that kept us deploying that algorithm on-chain, but with time, and more knowledge of Rust, it is possible to do so. There are limitations today (e.g. your models need to be no larger than ~1MB, you can’t use the most popular ML tools), but it blew my mind that this was even possible. We won an award from the Enigma team for our work too.
Another team independently had the same idea and implemented it as well! The uFlo team pushed data from a neuro infrared spectroscopy hardware (fNIRS) headset into a machine learning algorithm on Enigma to identify when someone was in “flow.” Because this algorithm was in an Enigma smart contract the whole process of submiting your data and getting an output from the model was private and trustless. Super cool. Another healthcare related project was CypherBabies. There’s a lot of other interesting non-healthcare stuff, with a lot of teams building DeFi applications or using NFTs.
Anyway, nothing gets me more excited for the future of these technologies than hackathons. It is amazing to see what a team of people can build in a focused weekend. Part of the reason why people can do so much is because of all of the work that has gone into new tooling and infrastructure. Almost everything built at Waterloo this weekend would have been next to impossible to build a year ago, let alone before that. And in a year the tooling and infrastructure will be even better still, which begs the question of what cool stuff people will be building in the future that isn’t feasible/possible today.
What I’m reading this weekend
Roll-ups are an approach to scaling blockchains that have received much attention in the past weeks, including in this newsletter. They are a “layer 2” solution, but are different than other layer 2 challenges by storing all relevant transaction data on-chain and moving only execution of those transactions off-chain. That seems a bit counter-intuitive (at least it was for me), but it works, and shows promise in scaling the Ethereum main net in the short term. This article compares Optimistic roll-ups with another form of rollups using zero-knowledge proofs, zk-rollups.
Shafi Goldwasser is an important researcher who boasts won multiple awards at the highest level of cryptography, and was the lead author on the paper that proposed zero-knowledge proofs back in 1985. In a talk at a VC fund’s summit she recounted the story of modern cryptography.
Balaji and Glen are two extremely sharp thinkers that I follow. Their conversation on this podcast was wide ranging on blockchains, crypto, identity, governance, and more; it is very dense and the kind of podcast that rewards multiple listens.
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