Blockchain has the potential to improve data transparency and reduce both friction and costs of current intermediaries. While its application is pretty well known in banking and finance industry, the usage of blockchain in healthcare and life sciences field is still new. To give you a better understanding on how this technology will disrupt the healthcare industry, we invited Vitalik Buterin, a 23 year old genius, hacker and entrepreneur, well-known as the cofounder and creator of the fast-growing new cryptocurrency network Ethereum and general partner of a healthcare blockchain investment firm to speak at the 10th BioPharma Asia in Singapore this 21-23 March.\
Ahead of him joining us at the event later this month, we sat down with him to find out more.
Q: Blockchain is a relatively new concept in pharma/healthcare industry. Can you please tell us more about how blockchain can disrupt the future of healthcare?
Buterin: When you’re trying to figure out how blockchain technology can be used to solve information security problems in any industry, it’s always important to be clear about what specific information security problems you are trying to solve and how, and in the healthcare industry this is even more true. For example, a large concern in healthcare is privacy, and blockchains by themselves are certainly not a privacy technology; if you try to create a system that simply puts medical records onto the blockchain directly then you are really making the problems worse.
The kinds of infosec problems that blockchains are good at are problems that have to do with authenticity and integrity – is the data approved by the person that it says it is approved by, and is the data the same data as the data that was approved? Are processes being performed correctly? Are there forgeries going on? Problems of this sort exist in healthcare as well, and blockchain tech is better equipped at solving those; for example, there are various products doing supply and distribution chain tracking and authentication of pharmaceuticals, so that customers can get greater proof that the medicines they are getting actually did come from some particular manufacturer.
When privacy is an issue, a better approach is to store encrypted data off the blockchain, and if needed store hashes of the data on the blockchain in order to preserve authentication.
Q: Please tell us more about Ethereum, and if there is any plan in working to improve transparency of pharma/healthcare industry
Buterin: Ethereum is a general-purpose blockchain, and so it can, and is, being used in many different industries, of which healthcare is definitely one. The Ethereum Foundation itself is closer to a pure base-layer tech organization, so we do fairly little application-layer work in specific industries, but we do keep tabs on what others are doing and there are quite a few examples. http://nuco.io out of Toronto has some healthcare projects, for example; they are trying to prevent fraudulent use of prescriptions.
Q: On your role at Fenbushi Capital, what are the main criteria/conditions which you are looking for in investing into a healthcare blockchain start up?
Buterin: Having a clear story about which problems it solves and how it solves them.
Q: What are the roles of established pharma/biotech in ensuring more transparent data sharing and communication?
Buterin: Ultimately, any solution that a blockchain project comes up with is one that is going to have to be adopted by mainstream industry if it is going to have a big impact. So there is necessarily going to be involvement both from blockchain startups and from established players working together to make blockchain pharma applications a success.
Want to learn more? Join us in Singapore this 21-23 March to get the chance to meet face-to-face with Vitalik at BioPharma Asia Convention.
About Biopharma Asia Convention
Biopharma Asia Convention is one of the largest B2B pan-Asia gathering for stakheolders in life sciences industry to learn, discuss and network. Attended by more than 1500 attendees annually, this conference bring you leading C-Level executives to share first hand case studies from the industry. Visit our website to find out more.