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Blockchain with a focus on life data

By Tim Sandle     May 15, 2018 in Science
A blockchain healthcare start-up, headed up by Harvard genomics Professor George Church, initiates a research collaboration to establish the new fields of microdataeconomics and macrodataeconomics, focusing on life data.
The initiative brings together thought-leaders in the fields of blockchain and artificial intelligence. This is with the intention of securing healthcare data for a new research field termed life data economics. Involved in the project is the company Nebula Genomics, which is a San Francisco-based facility run by Professor George Church. Nebula has begun using blockchain technology to develop a marketplace for genomic data.
Also involved in the project is Longenesis, which is a Hong Kong-based partnership formed between the companies Insilico Medicine and the Bitfury Group. These companies are deploying deep learning and blockchain technologies to devise a platform designed for the secure and transparent exchange of healthcare data. The Longenesis’ platform has been outlined in a journal in relation to demonstrating of a working prototype.
Here deep learning and transfer learning techniques are described, and shown to be capable of transforming any data about the person into medical data, such as transforming facial pictures and videos into sources of data that can be later used for predictive analytics.
The activities of the partners have been profiled in a Nature Medicine paper called “Experimenting with blockchain: Can one technology boost both data integrity and patients' pocketbooks?
The next phase of the collaboration is to both accelerate biomedical research and also to enable patients to control and profit from their personal data. Such a scheme can also provide incentives for patients to undergo constant health monitoring.
According to Professor Church, in a message sent to Digital Journal: “By allowing individuals and large data providers such as biobanks to maintain ownership of their genomic data on our platform and profit from it, Nebula Genomics seeks to incentivize generation of genomic data.”
He adds: “In doing so, we will gather the data on a single network where it can be conveniently and securely accessed by researchers… we will make a marketplace that will create an equitable and efficient economy for genomic data.”
This is an interesting concept. Previously the value of human personal data was defined by the profit potential from sales of goods and services. Under new schemes like the one being proposed, the various types of human data collected over the lifetime can provide healthcare benefits for the individual, and for the economy, and generate a profit for both the individual and the company processing the data.
The new research into human life data economics has been launched in alpha and it is an established proof of concept over a year-long pilot. Ongoing research looks at the societal value of microdataeconomics, which is the study of the value of life data used for drug discovery; and macrodataeconomics, which is the study of the value of life data used to determine human health, including electronic health records and genomics.
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