Pharma giants combine to use AI and blockchain for drug discovery and Kik gets sued
|Robert Miller||Jul 24, 2019|
Blockchain in healthcare updates
Announcing MELLODDY, a consortia of pharma, technical, and academic partners coming together to promote drug discovery with AI and blockchain
Here's an alternative link to an article in the Financial Times.
The Machine Learning Ledger Orchestration for Drug
Discovery project uses federated learning and a blockchain to allow traditionally competitive businesses to collaboratively train an AI model used for drug discovery. Here's the amazing thing: these companies are collectively training an AI on their highly confidential data but are guaranteed that the privacy of that data won't be compromised.
It is precisely the kind of paradigm shifting use of new privacy preserving technologies that I laid out two weeks ago and that we can expect to see more of in the future. To learn more about federated learning I'd suggest this blog post or this high level non-technical comic.
10 of the largest pharma companies in the world are participating, and they are joined by 5 industry partners and 2 academic universities. MELLODDY is taking place under the auspices of the Innovative Medicine Initiative, and is funded to the tune of €18.4 million. As part of the IMI process these projects are socialized among relevant companies to see who is interested in participating, and it's interesting to note the big pharma companies which (presumably) declined to join.
Bringing this back to blockchain, a private blockchain is used to orchestrate the federated learning process and keep a record of what data has been accessed. That ensures that no single party has control of the learning process, and that it is auditable by each participant. It's an interesting use case, and I'd like to better understand what the tradeoffs are between this approach, and say, Google's non-blockchain federated learning for autocorrect.
As far as I know It's not clear the specific data MELLODDY is targeting, but I'll be keenly watching the outcomes of this project.
Austin Blockchain Collective launches a healthcare working group
The Austin Blockchain Collective boasts some 140 blockchain and
crypto companies local to Austin. They just launched a healthcare working group with initial membership from Amchart and Dell Medical School. This announcement pairs well with John Bass' reflections on Austin back in May.
Walmart Joins Pharmaceutical-Tracking Blockchain Consortium MediLedger
The world's largest retailer and a pharmacy giant has joined the MediLedger project, which is building blockchain solutions for the pharma industry. Previously Walmart's involvement with blockchain had been primarily through their collaboration with IBM on FoodTrust, a track and trace solution for fresh produce built on Hyperledger Fabric.
Details on Walmart's exact participation is sparse but my guess is that Walmart is involved in some way with MediLedger's saleable returns verification use case and perhaps their DSCSA pilot. Strategically this is important for MediLedger as it breaks Walmart away from their previous tie to Farbic, and officially involves the first pharmacy in their ecosystem.
Solve.Care Partners with Leading Pharmaceutical Company Boehringer Ingelheim to Launch Care Network for Patients with Diabetes
The press release is, like most, a bit hand wavy on the details but it sounds like this collaboration will be around education and marketing. It's not clear to me how / if blockchain is being used.
For HHS, blockchain means faster ID management and safer mangoes
This brief article features two leaders in senior positions in the Federal Government who have hands on experience with leading blockchain projects and are stalwart proponents for the technology. Frank Yiannis, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, was previously at Walmart where he heavily involved in Walmart's activity in Foodtrust. Jose Arrieta, the new CIO of the HSS, previously led the successful HHS Accelerate program. Both share that they are actively pursuing blockchain opportunities, with Jose Arrieta providing some details about the cross agency projects he has on the horizon.
Molecule wants to change how new drugs are funded and developed. Here's an example of how.
Molecule is betting on new token mechanisms and incentive structures to help open up science and disrupt how drugs are developed. The above article gets into some of the details and numbers of how this is operationalized. I'm a huge fan of the open source movement and experiments with cutting edge technology, so I'm really excited by what they are doing, and I hope this experiment is successful.
Like many things in crypto, their solution has a lot of complexity and technical details necessary to make it work. It'll take some amazing UX to abstract away all of that math and make an intuitive user experience.
Here's a follow up article, also by Molecule, explaining why securitizing pharma IP makes sense, and where they add value.
Podcast: Allscripts hosts Hashed Health CEO John Bass in their "Blockchain for Healthcare" episode
What I'm reading this weekend
Kik Gets in Trouble Over Tokens
Kik raised a $100m ICO during the heat of the last bull market and is getting sued by the SEC over this. The SEC alleges that they sold unregistered securities, and Kik asserts that what they are building doesn't fit into the parameters of what the Howey test was intended for, the SEC is stifling innovation, and the Kin currency is now widely used. The SEC's complaint against Kik is scathing and worth a read.
Something good that might come out of this process is that we could get more clarity from the SEC on what is permissible or not.
A neat fact also in Matt Levine's column linked above: Carrefour found their chicken tracked with a blockchain sold better than their chicken not tracked with a blockchain.
DARPA-Funded Study Looks at How Crypto Chats Spread on Reddit
Pretty cool study by DARPA, and it's interesting they conducted it in the first place. It strikes me that Twitter and Reddit conversations about crypto coupled with granular on-chain transaction data will be a gold mine for future researchers.
Kadena Releases Updated Smart Contract Language for 'Hybrid Blockchains'
The Kadena team is worth paying attention to for these reasons:
1. They developed their approach to blockchains as a reaction to the problems they encountered while leading JP Morgan's early blockchain initiatives.
2. They are deeply technical and are creating novel technology solutions like the ChainWeb and now their "hybrid" smart contract solution.
3. They have an explicit interest in enterprises with some experience in healthcare, apparently running a provider data directory PoC for a consortia.
Their recent release is an example of the above, allowing developers to more easily deal with a multi-chain public/private environment.
Facebook's GlobalCoin will be governed by an outside foundation and it'll cost $10m to run a node
A few more details on GlobalCoin have emerged with a whitepaper set to be released on June 18th. It costs an eye popping $10m to run a node, with Facebook seeking to have 100 nodes at launch. As GlobalCoin is supposed to be a stablecoin nodes presumably won't receive coins in return for validating transactions, which makes the $10m price tag puzzling.
An idea floating around Twitter was that only nodes are able to view transactions, and that nodes are essentially paying for the ability to mine users' payments data. That would be inline with Facebook's business model to date, but in tension with the privacy vision laid out by Zuckerberg earlier this with. For now all of this is speculation, but we should have more details soon.