Blockchain in healthcare updates
Dr. Amy Abernethy, acting CIO for the FDA, gave a speech this Thursday laying out their vision for modernizing the FDA’s tech infrastructure and how they interact with industry. The speech is well worth taking the time to read in its entirety. Among other things, she touched on the Learning Healthcare System, real-time data sharing, data quality and traceability, and interoperability, which are all themes that the blockchain community is well suited to meet.
Dr. Abernethy ended her speech with the following teaser (bold is mine):
I’d like to end with a bit of a teaser. In the next month or two, we will be rolling out a plan to modernize FDA’s approach to the use of technology for its regulatory mission, including the review of medical product applications.
It will include modernization of FDA infrastructure to make sure we can support emerging uses of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and other technologies. We will be ramping up activities that modernize how we use tech to work with the stakeholder community.
I am keenly interested to see what the FDA rolls out. A place where I think they could begin would be a clinical trials equivalent of their DSCSA pilot where innovators are invited to engage with the agency as they use emerging technologies to address issues of data integrity and traceability. This should be of heightened interest to the FDA right now as they grapple with the fallout from Novartis’ recent data manipulation scandal.
Anecdotally I’m seeing a new healthcare focused project raising funds with their own cryptocurrency (an “ICO” or “IEO”) about once every two weeks. That’s not that frequent but it is an increase in pace from most of 2018 and early 2019. In general this crop hasn’t impressed me any more than the last wave, but it is generally a good sign that we have more entrepreneurs starting companies in this space, and a signal that some of the “hype” behind blockhain is returning.
Parallel to that trend, there continues to be institutional capital invested in the traditional way into blockchain and healthcare startups. With Patientory raising $5.2m last week total venture capital investment into blockchain and healthcare startups is just under $31m for the year, which is up ~$6m so far from a total of $25m in 2018.
What I'm reading this weekend
The ConsenSys backed Ethereum client Pantheon was submitted to become a Hyperledger project and faces a vote on acceptance from the Hyperledger Technical Steering Committee next week. Pantheon can be used for the public Ethereum mainnet or in a private permissioned deployment without proof-of-work. It is a client that is well suited for healthcare with its sophisticated privacy features.
It would be a significant milestone for both parties if Pantheon were accepted. This would be the first project within Hyperledger that supports a public blockchain, which signals the increasing adoption of Ethereum by enterprises. Moreover, it is a recognition of the importance of public blockchains in a community that has to date been dominated by private blockchains. Two initial ways that this manifests:
Public blockchains have attracted the largest developer communities, who in turn build applications or tooling. Overtime this compounds.
Cutting edge innovation on the underlying technology behind blockchains is happening almost exclusively on projects that have a public blockchain. Examples: ETH 2.0, Cosmos, PolkaDot, Kadena, Algorand, Solana, Dfinity, Zcash, even Libra, you could go on for awhile. This is important because these innovations will enable us to scale past current limitations.
Lastly, in an industry rife with scars of vendor lock in, I think this announcement is important because it signals a willingness to collaborate and work together between communities which have been perceived as being at odds with each other.
Beyond how wild this is it also highlights the silos that exist between the Asian blockchain community and the rest of the world. A couple billion dollars of crypto was scammed, a large amount by any measure but massive for the relatively immature crypto matures, and the English speaking barely noticed until now.
Some rumbling about Libra: