Isaiah van Hunen

The Pistoia Alliance, a not for profit organisation has called on the pharmaceutical and technology industries to support greater collaboration around blockchain initiatives.

Just under a quarter (22%) of life science companies are already using or experimenting with blockchain, but industry collaboration over security and storage standards is needed.

According to a study of senior pharmaceutical and life science leaders conducted by the company, interest in blockchain is high, with a significant 83% expecting blockchain to be adopted in under five years. As a result, the alliance is urging stakeholders to collaborate on the creation of industry-wide data sharing standards during this early adoption phase. Standards such as these will improve security and render patients more likely to share their data with companies; benefiting everyone from researchers to patients, both now and in the future.

Although blockchain offers a potential data housing solution, there are a number of obstacles to its widespread adoption in life sciences. When asked, life science leaders identified the biggest challenge as regulatory issues (45%), followed by concerns over data privacy (26%). To realise the potential of blockchain, the industry will need to work together to overcome these barriers.

“The potential of this data to advance research and development efforts is huge. But this potential will only be realised if the industry can work out how to safely and securely store and share sensitive data. Right now, blockchain is a technology originally created for use in the financial services industry, but by working together, the life sciences industry can take advantage of its secure attributes,” said the company. “The Pistoia Alliance was formed to foster collaboration between the life sciences industry and its stakeholders in other sectors – our aim is to support our members’ blockchain initiatives and provide a forum for such partnership.”

When it comes to use cases of blockchain in pharmaceuticals and healthcare, one possible application is in supporting the supply chain by ensuring an auditable trail to safeguard drug provenance. More than two thirds (68%) of pharmaceutical and life science leaders believe blockchain will have the greatest impact.

The organisation concluded, “In the future, patients will even have the possibility of monetising access to their personal data, giving individual companies access to ‘blocks’ of their data for research purposes. This shift – where patients have access to and control over how their data is used – is changing the entire model of healthcare from early R&D all the way to frontline delivery. Ultimately, patients will want to manage their personal data the way they manage their bank accounts. The life sciences industry must collaboratively explore solutions that enable patients to do this, while ensuring they retain access to data for their own R&D efforts.”