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Life Science On the Distributed Ledger

Bioscience is an area in medical science that involves genetic research, disease prevention and lifestyle treatments. It’s been around for a long time but the infrastructural application of blockchain technology offers the possibility of significant advancement.

According to a June 2016 survey of senior pharmaceutical and life science leaders, conducted by the Pistoia Alliance, 83 percent of respondents indicated that they anticipate the industry-wide adoption of blockchain technology within five years.

The Pistoia Alliance is a global non-profit with a mission to lower barriers to innovation in life science research and development. The Alliance aims to fuel collaboration between the life sciences industry and stakeholders in other complementary sectors, with the goal of supporting blockchain initiatives and partnerships.

Genetic Privacy and Security

Because genomics — or life science research in general ― deals with data that is both sensitive and personal, security and privacy have always been primary concerns in the bioscience industry. The Anthem data breach is one of the most recent public examples of the validity and significance of such concerns.

To address privacy and security threats, stakeholders are beginning to collaborate on industry-wide data-sharing standards to improve communication and ensure that patients are comfortable sharing their data with companies. This collaborative effort is expected to benefit both researchers and patients, today as well as in the future.

Storage and security of personal data continues to be a major industry focus. This focus is especially pertinent in the areas of genomics, sequencing and ancestral history. Increasingly, in their search for new medical discoveries and cures, life science firms and clinical research institutions are seeking access to this valuable data. In fact, in a key finding, the Pistoia Alliance has concluded that genomic data, arguably the fastest growing cache of data in the world, could be efficiently stored on the blockchain.

Despite blockchain technology’s immense promise as a data-housing solution, there are still numerous hurdles to its widespread adoption in the bioscience industry. In the aforementioned survey, for instance, while the vast majority of respondents expected wider adoption of blockchain technologies, concerns remained. Some respondents indicated that regulatory issues were the largest hurdle to wider industry use of blockchain solutions (45 percent), followed by concerns over data privacy (26 percent). Many industry leaders appear to believe that blockchain’s value proposition can only be delivered if collaborative efforts are made to transcend these barriers and find ways to securely and safely house and share sensitive data.

The Life science pioneers of distributed ledger technology

Genecoin is in the throes of creating a revolutionary service that will allow backups of personal DNA sequences through uploads on the Bitcoin network.

Encrypgen has created a blockchain-based solution called Gene-Chain to help laboratories and healthcare providers store and manage genomic information from any sample.

DNA.Bits delivers cutting-edge technology which utilizes permissioned blockchain platform solutions related to big data, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the de-identified continuous sharing of genetic and correlated clinical data.

Needless to say, developments in biotechnology and medicine, combined with groundbreaking blockchain-based solutions and applications, hold great promise for the future of medical science, particularly in the areas of research, diagnosis and preventative medicine.

Consultant and blockchain researcher Brennan Bennett, founder of Blockchain Healthcare Review, promoted and praised the link between blockchain technology and genomic data, noting “When all of these worlds merge on a bigger scale, blockchain will accelerate the efficiency of bioinformatics and computational biology to unprecedented heights.”


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