MediLedger starts their DSCSA pilot, new details on IBM's Health Utility Network emerge, and Facebook's Libra is revealed

Blockchain in healthcare updates

MediLedger's DSCSA pilot kicks off
MediLedger announced that their FDA Drug Supply Chain Security Act ("DSCSA") pilot started earlier this week. Under the FDA's Pilot Project Program MediLedger and their partners are piloting a blockchain's ability to help pharma companies meet the DSCSA 2023 interoperability requirements. The pilot will consist of Pfizer, Genentech, Amgen, Gilead, FFF Enterprises, Dermira, Eli Lilly, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Walgreens, and Walmart. MediLedger mentions that there are a handful of other participants not named as well.

The actual use case isn't new or surprising, MediLedger has been working towards DSCSA compliance for awhile now. What's notable here is that this is an impressive roster of participants. Getting the right business parties to participate in a solution is often times more difficult than actually creating a technical solution to a problem with a blockchain, so this pilot is a promising sign for MediLedger.

A few new details on IBM's Health Utility Network emerge
In January IBM announced the creation of a new blockchain based "health utility network" (or "HUN") and the participation of Aetna, Anthem, Health Care Service Corporation, PNC Bank, Cigna, and Sentara Healthcare. Notably the participants are still working on the governance model and the use cases they want to tackle. This "platform first use case second" approach stands in contrast to other consortia like ProCredEx or the Synaptic Health Alliance, which were convened around a specific use case.

There are a range of possible use cases that HUN could take up. For example they have the right participants for value based purchasing or bundled payments. Still, that's only a small subset of what is necessary to make a blockchain use case work. You need a compelling technical solution, coupled with the right business incentives, along with a governance model that corresponds to your technical and business models. By starting a consortia with a use case in mind you can recruit other participants that are already bought in to a vision. The inverse of that, which is starting with participants and then figuring out your use case and governance model, will be more tedious and that's reflected by the time it's taking HUN to get started. 

Canada's largest pharmacy chain partners with a blockchain startup to track pot
Specifically a pilot is being run where DrugMart will use TruTrace Technologies' blockchain to identify, track, and verify the source and genetics of cannabis used by medical patients. The startup specifically calls out the prospect of a future relationship with CVS or Walgreens as a hope they have. The trouble with this use case, as with all track and trace use cases, is getting every party in the ecosystem to use your blockchain. However, a strong partner like Drug Mart or CVS could compel others to adopt a specific technology, similar to what Walmart did with FoodTrust.

Health IT Today Blockchain in Healthcare Podcast
A short, mostly introductory podcast into blockchain's usage in healthcare. But it's good to see blockchain technology getting coverage in popular outlets like Health IT Today.

MetLife is using the public Ethereum blockchain to improve life insurance
MetLife’s Singapore-based incubator LumenLab is collaborating with Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and NTUC Income on a platform of smart contracts known as ‘Lifechain’ to help loved ones quickly determine if the deceased was protected with a policy and automatically file a claim. The CIO of MetLife highlights the security benefits of a blockchain, the value of experimenting with it, and DLT's multiparty nature as reasons why they are using a blockchain. 

Webinar: R3 is hosting a webinar on the application blockchain in clinical research
The webinar will be on June 27th from 11:30am - 12:30am. Thanks to Stephanie Perez for pointing this out to me. 

What I'm reading this weekend

Facebook's crypto project is finally public: welcome to the Libra Association 
This past Tuesday Facebook's crypto project went public. Media reports were mostly correct: they are launching a global stablecoin on a permissioned blockchain governed by an association with wide ranging members. I've been banging on this drum for weeks now but again this is a really big deal. The biggest companies in the world are now launching cryptocurrencies. More than just that, a cabal of corporations are proposing the creation of what amounts to be a central bank. That's not hyperbole and governments around the world are not treating it as hyperbole. Within 24 hours we had these reactions:

Moreover, several top central bankers revealed they had been in discussions about the project. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney met with Mark Zuckerberg, and Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, said Facebook had "made quite broad rounds around the world with regulators, supervisors and lots of people to discuss their plans and that certainly includes us." The fact that a tech company can command the interest of monetary authorities worldwide speaks to the changing locus of power in this world. 

To their credit, Facebook has setup Libra in such a way that they will be only one of many voices that govern the network. In my opinion, that was a very tactical choice to 1. assuage the worries of regulators and 2. release themselves of some level of liability by giving up control. It'll be fascinating to watch whether Libra succeeds or doesn't. 

Some notable highlights from the whitepaper:

  1. The stablecoin will be backed by a reserve of currencies and low risk securities (think government bonds).

  2. This reserve of currencies and low risk securities will yield returns, which will be used to cover operating costs as well as pay dividends to members of the association.

  3. To become a business partner you need to meet certain market value / scale / brand criteria. There are separate criteria for crypto-funds and non-profits.

  4. The network is governed by a non-profit entity and Facebook is only 1 member of many. They have an equal vote to their 27 other business parties. Eventually there will be 100 members governing the network.

  5. Although this is permissioned blockchain, they have a stated ambition of moving to a permissionless blockchain in the future.

  6. Libra has a new smart contracting language, Move, with some interesting new properties. There is also a live test net.

Practical Law featured a report discussing blockchain technology in supply chains
The report is a good exploration of the legal and practical issues that arise with using blockchain technology in supply chains. These range from governance considerations (e.g the rights and obligations of participants, decision making process, etc), network administration (who maintains the network?), antitrust issues, data privacy, and more. 

Digital Asset brings its smart contracting language to R3 and Hyperledger
Digital Asset's smart contract language DAML will be usable on R3's Corda as well as Hyperledger Fabric. Last month it became available on Sawtooth. What's interesting is that after Blythe Master's departure Digital Asset is prioritizing its smart contracting language over its blockchain offering. In some ways this is a downgrade for Digital Asset, which raised over $100m in funding to bring distributed ledger technology to financial institutions. But this renewed focus will let Digital Asset partner and go to market in new ways since they are no longer competing with platforms like R3 or Hyperledger.