In the past 60 years, the average life expectancy of newborns has increased by nearly 20 years-from 52.5 years to 72 years, as of 2018. We have seen an incredible wave of technological innovation during this period: the introduction of the Internet, medical breakthroughs in public health measures and a deeper understanding have changed the course of human life. With the emergence of new technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence, we know that more radical changes are coming. These disruptive technologies are paving the way for longer and healthier lifespans.
In order to show you how much progress has been made in healthcare thanks to these technologies, I want to highlight the case studies of two unique companies, Insilico Medicine and Longenesis. Together, they demonstrated how the development of medical artificial intelligence has evolved in tandem with the emergence of blockchain healthcare applications.
In 2014, longevity innovator Alex Zhavoronkov and their company Insilico Medicine contacted me. The company is based on a simple but radical premise: the use of artificial intelligence to accelerate drug discovery and development. At that time, artificial intelligence was still in its infancy in public awareness and its application in medicine. But in the seven years since I invested in this company, it has revolutionized the research and development of therapeutics with artificial intelligence. Its rapid discovery and development of new therapies stems from the large amount of data they process to find the next best treatment method. The sources and scope of these data are rich, and come from the genome and proteomic sequences of actual healthcare patients. With dozens of new drug candidates, they have shown great potential in using artificial intelligence for data-driven healthcare.
However, Insilico’s breakthrough progress is not without obstacles. Processing large amounts of data presents unique challenges in terms of centralization and security. Data in healthcare is often scattered and isolated. Each doctor, medical center, and hospital has its own island, and due to privacy regulations, data is usually only shared when patient care is needed. Access to synthetic patient data is critical to the success of Insilico’s AI algorithm, and it just isn’t available.
Privacy and blockchain technology
When looking for solutions to the security and centralization issues associated with this type of data, Alex and the team of Insilico Medicine quickly discovered blockchain and distributed ledger technology. The immutability of items on the blockchain and the ability to allow multiple decentralized nodes to provide data to a shared ledger provide solutions to complex problems related to patient data. This technology is exactly what they have been looking for, but they need a partner to build with them. Insilico formed a joint venture with Bitfury, a leading European blockchain company (now one of the largest emerging technology companies in continental Europe), and established a new company called Longenesis. Longenesis’s goal is clear: to create a blockchain medical ecosystem, taking into account the sensitive needs of health data and the application needs of biotechnology research.
Longenesis has designed a blockchain-based environment for stakeholders throughout the healthcare/biotechnology industry, including patient organizations, biomedical research groups, and research partners and sponsors. The beauty of the Longenesis solution is that there is always a record of consent. When patients agree to share their data for any purpose, their permission is unalterable evidence.
Its first product, Curator, is used by hospitals and other care organizations to safely and compliantly present data available to researchers without compromising patient privacy. This feature allows researchers to view data sets without compromising the safety of patient information. When researchers or companies are interested in using this data, Longenesis’ second product, Engage, will provide it. Engage also allows hospitals and researchers to quickly involve patients in new medical trials and research, and record ongoing patient consent. Whether artificial intelligence is used to analyze new data from medical trials or “old” data from medical records, patients know and can decide to agree at their convenience. Longenesis has deployed the solution in state hospitals, government biobanks, etc. Its work enables artificial intelligence companies such as Insilico Medicine to access large amounts of data that can be used for artificial intelligence analysis, leading to more treatments and drug discovery.
Data, blockchain and human longevity
Although I focused on two companies here, there are still thousands of excellent start-up companies, research institutions and doctors working tirelessly to extend human life. They can all benefit from the data unlocked by the blockchain and the analytical capabilities of artificial intelligence.
The hospital generates an average of 760 terabytes of data each year, but 80% of these valuable data are unstructured and cannot be obtained by researchers. It needs to be kept safe, and patients need to provide continuous consent for its use. This disconnect hinders the progress of all aspects of medicine. The combination of blockchain and artificial intelligence can unlock this data for analysis, facilitate patient consent, and track the use of clinical data.
Without blockchain, artificial intelligence lacks the ethical sources and protected biomedical data needed to find new solutions. Without artificial intelligence, a large amount of data protected by blockchain is still safe, but it cannot be used for research. When these innovations work together, progress will be made, just as important public health initiatives of the past few decades have been successful due to the advent of the World Wide Web. Then, our goal must be to bring these technologies to the market more comprehensively so that everyone can get care that focuses on longevity.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are only those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Gary Zmoz He is the managing partner of LongeVC, a venture capital company headquartered in Switzerland and Cyprus, aiming to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of biotechnology and longevity. He is an experienced business expert and angel investor who has successfully exited biotechnology and technology companies many times. He is a long-term supporter and investor in biotechnology companies, including Insilico Medicine, Deep Longevity, and Basepaws.
Author’s note: Insilico Medicine and Longenesis are two entities that are portfolio companies of LongeVC, our venture capital firm focused on longevity.