Co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Blockchain Research Institute
This article is based on a webinar we co-hosted with IBM on Monday, January 25th – an unprecedented discussion that I would encourage everyone to watch. The webinar is available on-demand here. Please enjoy!
With the pandemic still raging, and lockdowns in place throughout much of the world, COVID-19 prevention and control is very much on everyone’s mind.
Yesterday we hosted a discussion with IBM on the important topic of vaccine distribution.
Vaccines, especially those developed to control the spread of COVID, require highly specialized conditions to ensure their stability. It’s vital, therefore, that the public trust that the vaccine is safe, and that these controls are being adhered to in the distribution process.
Vaccinating the world will be like nothing governments have implemented in history. According to IBM, 77% of U.S. citizens are concerned about the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
And in the early rollout of the vaccine, supply distribution and information problems are being solved by technology. It is here that blockchain has a central role to play.
In yesterday’s discussion, Christopher Moose, part of Life Sciences and Healthcare at IBM, and Mark Treshock, Blockchain Solution Leader,
Healthcare and Life Sciences at IBM, described the opportunity for blockchain to enable manufacturers to proactively monitor for adverse events and improve recall management, distributors to gain real-time visibility and enhanced ability to respond to supply chain disruptions, and dispensers to improve inventory management and safety monitoring.
All with the goal of having citizens trust the safety and efficacy of vaccines and get back to their pre-pandemic lives.
According to Mark Treshock, “Blockchain is an information sharing utility being used within the pharmaceutical supply chain. IBM and others have been working in the supply chain space to create transparency.
Working with Merck, KPMG, and Walmart, we developed a platform that was focused on meeting the Drug Supply Chain Security Act requirements – a drug track and trace regulation for prescription pharmaceuticals.
This allows us to access the history of the movement of pharmaceuticals, and to ensure that counterfeit or expired products are not being used.”
Chris Moose discussed the process of identifying a vaccine’s authenticity so that the data that gets added to the chain – the data about the vaccine’s integrity – can be trusted.
According to Moose, “You have to get to the trusted source of the information, integrating with the company’s manufacturing lines, so that when a unique identifier is applied to a medication you have a trusted source about that medication’s point of origin.”
Creating trusted supply chains for a task as monumental as vaccine distribution during a pandemic is a precursor for creating the supply chains of the future.
Treshock envisions highly personalized supply chains, where precise biologic samples are taken from a patient, sent to a lab, converted into a medicine, and returned to the patient for whom the medicine was specifically developed.
This is very different capability compared to the way supply chains are handled today, but the opportunity is clear.
In order for us to realize this future, we have to overcome existing challenges. Blockchain can be used to solve information problems, and social problems around data sharing.
What it enables is the protection of data and individual privacy while creating verifiable credentials of important checkpoints. But it needs leadership, stewardship, and fine tuning. As says Treshock, “The party that creates smooth processes in this area today will have a competitive advantage tomorrow.”
And according to Treshock, “when we apply AI and machine learning, we see an exciting future around this utility.”
It’s an exciting time as we work through solving some of the world’s most important problems. Overcoming the hurdles of vaccine distribution and collaborating around shared utilities such as blockchain will likely bring new meaning to the concept of shared value creation.