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Life Sciences and its growing trust in Blockchain

As the life sciences and pharma sectors seek new ways to grow and improve, Blockchain has brought along an opportunity that’s multifold. Subhro Mallik and Gopi KK of Infosys get together to discuss.

Highlights

  • “Looking forward, the (pharma) industry will be challenged to bring forth new drugs much faster to market.” – Subhro Mallik
  • “Trust, transparency and immutability - the three key tenets of a blockchain system, offer native capabilities that can actually bolster the pharma industries’ inter-company processes.” – Gopi KK.
  • “A proof of consent can be time stamped and stored in a chain as a patient owned data. So, it can also impose explicit reconsent in real time, and we can prevent data misuse and ensure higher data quality.” – Gopi KK.
  • “(Pharma companies) have to be the early adopters… And, some of the larger companies have the onus to do this…. That's the only way this is ever going to get adopted.” – Subhro Mallik

There’s no denying that technology can benefit organizations across industries. There’s also no denying that the pandemic has changed the way organizations are looking at transforming and improving their business processes.

Amid all these changes, however, distributed ledger technologies, namely Blockchain, has evolved over the past few years, and has now positioned itself as a worthy technology solution in the healthcare and life sciences space.

In a discussion, Subhro Mallik, Head of Life Sciences, Infosys, and Gopi KK, Head of Oracle & Blockchain Services at Infosys, discussed the current environment of healthcare, and how Blockchain can play an important role in the sector.

Mallik suggests that the pandemic has driven the desire for change in the sector, which was lesser in the pre-pandemic times.

And he is hopeful for more changes in the future.

“Looking forward, the (pharma) industry will be challenged to bring forth new drugs much faster to market,” he says, adding, that at the same time, the regulatory ecosystem that will surround pharma companies will also evolve to allow for that.

He suggests that Blockchain could help the industry address multiple aspects.

“But most importantly, (Blockchain can help) maintain the integrity of the supply chain,” says Mallik.

“Looking forward, the (pharma) industry will be challenged to bring forth new drugs much faster to market,” says Subhro Mallik.

Gopi KK is on the same page saying that the advancements in the technology have made Blockchain a practical application for many industries, including the pharma industry.

He suggests that a resilient supply chain in the pharma industry is a function of trust of all participants, which includes the collaborators, researchers, Principal investigators, regulators, doctors, patients, pharmacies, trial sites, among others.

“So, trust, transparency and immutability - the three key tenets of a blockchain system, offer native capabilities that can actually bolster the pharma industries’ inter-company processes,” says Gopi.

Mallik agrees suggesting that a brand, which is an important aspect for any pharma company, and that is built on trust. He also adds that Blockchain as a technology is ripe for adoption.

Gopi agrees, while adding that it is early to suggest that the use is wide spread.

“However, we are now moving to a place where I believe that blockchain applications in the life science industry will become imminent,” says Gopi.

“For example, a proof of consent can be time stamped and stored in a chain as a patient owned data. So, it can also impose explicit reconsent in real time, and we can prevent data misuse and ensure higher data quality,” says Gopi KK.

He shares an example of clinical trials, which are multi-step research studies performed on volunteers, aimed at evaluating the effects of medical, surgical, or even behavioral interventions on humans.

“Blockchain can, in fact, enforce data security and confidentiality,” he notes talking about the elements involved in clinical trials.

“For example, a proof of consent can be time stamped and stored in a chain as a patient owned data. So, it can also impose explicit reconsent in real time, and we can prevent data misuse and ensure higher data quality,” says Gopi.

“And because of all this, it creates a very agile ecosystem,” he adds.

He suggests that a blockchain based decentralized tracking system can help track medicines from source to patient and establish the chain of custody. It can also improve end-to-end traceability, reduce cost, and in some cases, even avoid product recall, thereby preserving the firm's brand and goodwill.

“Can you take this and leapfrog and make blockchain as a part of your technology landscape so that it becomes inherent to the change you're making?” asks Mallik.

Sharing his thoughts on what organizations ought to look at when it comes to the adoption of Blockchain, Mallik suggests that some companies have to lead the change.

“They have to be the early adopters, they have to see how they can make this happen,” he says, adding “And, some of the larger companies have the onus to do this. I mean, that's the only way this is ever going to get adopted.”

He also says that the regulatory environment has to be managed as well.

Mallik suggests that the pandemic has afforded an opportunity to pharma organizations to indulge in a discussion with the regulators, asking for structural changes, while maintaining the trust needed, by implementing an even more trustworthy system.

“So the trust is transferred from people to technology,” he says.

He notes that today blockchain is being used by pharma companies as an afterthought in some cases, or some specific proof of concepts in some areas.

“Can you take this and leapfrog and make blockchain as a part of your technology landscape so that it becomes inherent to the change you're making?” asks Mallik, while adding, “And then, it gets much adopted in a much bigger way.”

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