Blockchain in healthcare updates
LedgerDomain and UCLA conducted a pilot under the FDA’s DSCSA pilot program. Like MediLedger a few weeks ago, LedgerDomain released a report detailing their findings. Even for those of us not steeped in the nuances of supply chains this is a good read, sharing an ample level of detail into the context and scope of the work done. In short they conducted a pilot to show how blockchain tech can be used to verify prescription drugs before they are dispensed, and this was tested out in a live environment at UCLA. There is a brief video about this work here.
The most interesting sections for me were the financial and policy implications. The paper finds that a blockchain can reduce the amount of work (1 scan vs 2 scans) needed to verify a drug’s authenticity, and thus save money in labor costs. Building up from average labor costs, the authors postulate that this would save the pharmaceutical industry over $180 million per year. But, as the authors point out, there will be increased costs overall from the added burden of complying with DSCSA. Further, the authors note dispensers will bear the brunt of these costs, and propose using a blockchain for cost shifting along with other cost reducing suggestions, like adoption of RFID tags.
Lastly this paper raises questions around interoperability. The risk is that several systems are adopted across the pharma supply chain and those systems are not able to talk to each other, thus creating blind spots. The hard problem is not so much that blockchains can’t talk to another (they can), but instead that different solution approaches might be incompatible.
Owkin, the startup behind MELLODDY and the KCL AI4VBH initiative, will work with the University of Pittsburgh to advance cancer research with AI. This is enabled by their federated learning platform, which leverages blockchain to manage access to data and orchestrate learning.
The most interesting thing about this was a subtle announcement of a new, even more ambitious initiative:
This partnership makes it possible for Pitt to join the Owkin Loop, a federated network of US and European academic medical centers that collaborate with Owkin to generate new insights… [Loop] can inform pharmaceutical drug development strategy, from biomarker discovery to clinical trial design, and product differentiation.
Previously Owkin had established many partnerships with academic medical centers, sometimes in bilateral relationships like this new one but sometimes in networks like AI4VBH, and each of these has a particular focus (e.g. cancer research). But my reading of this is Owkin’s partners can join the what they are calling the Owkin Loop, a sort of super-network joining together all partners without a particular category of focus. Instead it will used for a wide variety of things and presumably monetized by selling insights somehow.
Loop is similar to Mayo’s similarly focused federated learning initiative, which at first sounded like a bilateral project, but has ambitions to make it a more general platform: “The Clinical Data Analytics Platform will apply advanced data analytics on deidentified data from Mayo Clinic and other organizations.” The basic business model is to get multiple healthcare organizations on a federated learning network and charge third parties for running statistical queries or for training AI models. These are early examples of what will be a shift from the health organizations monetizing data through the sale of deidentified data to monetizing insights through federated learning.
What I'm reading this weekend
Governor Cuomo calls for uniform federal policy for commerce, event, and school shutdowns, localization for testing, and calls for the Army Corps of Engineers to be mobilized. It’s a stark message but one that reflects the gravity of the situation we face: the simple facts are that we do not have enough resources (beds, ICUs, ventilators, masks, etc) to handle a surge in sick people. Meeting that demand will likely require war-time levels of mobilization of resources. To Governor Cuomo’s point, I don’t think anyone else has the expertise, mandate, or scale to build things quickly or scale production enough.
This message was also a bit odd coming from the Governor as this weekend nightlife has continued on as it would have any other weekend and public schools are still open in New York.
The projected number of prevalent critically ill patients at the peak of a Wuhan-like outbreak in US cities ranges from 2.1 to 4.0 per 10,000 adults when we took into account of the difference in age distribution, and from 2.6 to 4.9 per 10,000 adults when we took into account of the differences in co-morbidity (hypertension prevalence).
Per Governor Cuomo’s article NYC has ~3,000 intensive-care beds.
If you are building/researching in this space I suggest you check out Gitcoin Grants. It is a relatively simple process to sign up and they are giving out low overhead grants.
Checks/direct deposits to low-income Americans
Subsidies for kids who would miss their school meals
Waive work requirements for insurance
Other coronavirus related articles:
St. Louis Fed: Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic
Blockchain tech is being used to provide providence on a marketplace of used airplane goods. Pretty cool.
Business across the economy and the country will benefit from an FTA including: Digital Economy: In areas such as data flows, blockchain, driverless cars and quantum technology we have the opportunity to help shape global rules through ambitious digital trade provisions.
Stay safe and wash your hands, everyone.
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