Blockchain in healthcare updates
Owkin is creating federated learning technology and is a key member of MELLODDY. They use a blockchain to orchestrate and keep an audit log of the federated learning process, giving participants an even higher degree of confidence their data isn’t used in ways they don’t approve of. They teamed up with NVIDIA (also a member of MELLODDY), who released their federated learning for healthcare framework called Clara this week, an AI developer kit for image and video processing, an edge compute platform (which is synergistic with federated learning).
Alongside Owkin and NVIDIA is King’s College London’s AI Centre for Value Based Healthcare (AI4VHB), which will then work with three universities and four hospitals to form the basis of a federated learning network. The scope seem is initially rather broad:
KCL will use Owkin’s Federated Learning software and NVIDIA’s EGX Intelligent Edge Computing platform to develop research, clinical and operational improvements across a large number of clinical pathways, with cancer, heart failure, dementia and stroke likely areas of early focus.
Given Owkin’s previous work and NVIDIA’s new products it seems likely the initial focus will have to do with imaging data. This line also interested me:
KCL will make this federated dataset available to its researchers as well as a community of Life Science & Healthcare companies that are consortium members within the Innovate UK funded AI Centre.
If I’m understanding this correctly other members of AI4VBH will have the ability to train algorithms on the federated datasets created. In theory this is equivalent to pooling data from a bunch of institutions, but in this case data never has to be shared. As a result this architecture should lower the barriers to training algorithms, and thus gaining valuable clinical insights, on sensitive data. More researchers will be able to gain the benefits of ever larger health datasets (albeit federated!), but without the usual tradeoff of patients sacrificing their privacy.
Today this is confined to a relatively small group of people affiliated with AI4VBH but I can imagine how this architecture could scale much easier than traditional patient data sharing can scale. Lastly, I’m interested in how they govern the algorithms and insights that are generated from this collaboration. For example: if one of the AI4VBH partners finds some novel insights with their algorithms, who has a claim to that algorithm? Who gets to chose when/how/if it’s monetized?
SimplyVital has been building blockchain for healthcare data infrastructure for ~2 years now and it seems they are focusing on enabling value-based care with their technology. To that end they’ve launched an API that makes it easier to record and audit events on a public blockchain, which is valuable if you need an audit log for sensitive data or processes. Also of note: they recently received a grant from the NSF.
Rymedi builds blockchain and healthcare solutions and is one of the teams conducting an FDA DSCSA pilot. They are also notable for their work in Mongolia. They teamed up with Kadena, which has recently created a new smart contract platform, to launch a tracking platform for CBD oil. The idea being that consumers could scan a barcode and see the journey of a product across a supply chain into their hands, and have greater confidence that they are taking something which is high-quality. The article also makes it clear this new partnership has ambitions to build out more healthcare infrastructure together.
A quick note
Last week I couldn’t find any details on “FantomOperations,” which is working with the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan, and Charles Fournier was kind enough to point out to me that was the Fantom Foundation. Much appreciated!
That brings total blockchain and healthcare (non-ICO) funding for the year to ~$38m.
What I’m reading this weekend
I noticed they were sponsoring a talk at the industry conference NeurIPS. There’s no way that Apple isn’t thinking of how to apply federated learning to healthcare.
Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics held a live simulation of a White House National Security Council meeting and featured participation from an impressive roster of academics and former heads of various federal departments. The simulation covered a crisis set two years out from now where North Korea has dramatically advanced its nuclear program and is actively acquiring raw materials using China's Central Bank Digital Currency as a payment network. In this case the United States cannot exert influence and enforce sanctions like it can today because it has no control over these payment rails.
This kind of future is rapidly becoming a reality! China has been very clear about their digital currency ambitions and it is no secret that North Korea has been hacking crypto exchanges.
It is worth repeating why I highlight this sort of content for my almost entirely healthcare focused audience: geopolitical digital currency conflicts are driving national cryptocurrency and blockchain technology strategies. These strategies help coordinate activity and investment as well as create favorable regulatory environments. This will have huge downstream consequences for the blockchain industry at large.
Rollups have made an appearance several times in this newsletter, check out this link for a more in-depth explanation. Matter Labs got a grant from the Ethereum Foundation to build a roll up solution using zero-knowledge proofs and they shared details of their work earlier this week. If implementation goes smoothly this is a big deal. It promises ~2,000 transactions per second with the same level of decentralization Ethereum has today with privacy preserving smart contracts and a cool new programming language. Definitely a project to watch.
I thought this was cool: a new fintech app is giving equity to early users who download the app and invite their friends.
Who will be the first consumer facing digital health company to do the same?
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