Over the past 60 years, the life expectancy of the average newborn has increased by almost 20 years: from 52.5 to 72 in 2018. During that time, we’ve seen an incredible wave of technological innovation: the advent of the Internet, medical advances, and a better understanding of public health initiatives have changed the course of human life. And with new technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence hitting the market now, we know that an even more radical transformation is imminent. These disruptive technologies are paving the way for longer, healthier lives.
To show how far health care has advanced thanks to these technologies, I’d like to highlight a case study from two unique companies, Insilico Medicine and Longenesis. Together they show how the development of AI for healthcare has grown along with the advent of blockchain applications in healthcare.
In 2014, longevity innovator Alex Zhavoronkov and his Company, Insilico Medicine, you contacted me. The company was built on a simple but radical premise: Use AI to accelerate drug discovery and development. At that time, the use of AI was still in its infancy, both in terms of public perception and its application in medicine. But in the seven years since I’ve invested in this company, this is it has used AI to completely transform research and development in the therapeutic sector. Their rapid discovery and development of new therapies is the result of the incredible amount of data they process in search of the next best cure. This data, rich in origin and scope, comes from the genomic and proteomic sequences of real health patients. With dozens of new drug candidates, they have shown tremendous potential in using AI for data-driven healthcare.
Insilico’s groundbreaking advances were not without their hurdles, however. Working with huge amounts of data posed unique centralization and security challenges. Health data tends to be scattered and isolated. Every doctor, medical center and hospital has its own silo and due to data protection regulations, data is normally only shared when it is necessary for patient care. Access to synthesized patient data was critical to the success of Insilico’s AI algorithms, and it was simply not available..
Data protection and blockchain technology
While searching for solutions to the security and centralization problems associated with this type of data, Alex and the team at Insilico Medicine soon discovered blockchain and distributed ledger technology.. The immutability of the entries in the blockchain and the possibility of several decentralized nodes bringing data into a common distributed register offered a solution to the complex problems associated with patient data. This technology was what they were looking for, but they needed a partner to build it with them. Insilico has set up a joint venture with Europe’s leading blockchain company Bitfury (now one of the continent’s largest emerging technology companies) and founded a new company called Longenesis. The goal of Longenesis was clear: to create a blockchain ecosystem for healthcare that takes into account the sensitive requirements of health data and the application needs of biotechnological research..
Longenesis has developed a blockchain-based environment for health and biotechnology industry stakeholders, including patient organizations, biomedical research groups, and research partners and sponsors. The nice thing about the Longenesis solution is that there is always a declaration of consent. When patients consent to their data being shared for any purpose, there is immutable evidence of their consent.
Your first product, Curator, is used by hospitals and other health organizations to safely and respectfully present data available to researchers without compromising patient privacy. This feature enables researchers to review records without compromising the security of patient data. If a researcher or company is interested in using the data, Longenesis’ second product, Engage, makes it available. Engage also enables hospitals and researchers to quickly involve patients in new medical studies and research, and to record ongoing patient consent.. Regardless of whether AI is analyzing new data from a medical study or “old” data from medical records, patients know this and can opt for consent when it suits them. Longenesis has used this solution in government hospitals, government biobanks, and others. His work gives AI companies like Insilico Medicine access to huge amounts of data that can be used for artificial intelligence analysis, leading to further drug discovery and treatment..
Data, blockchain and human longevity
Although I’ve highlighted two companies here, there are thousands of outstanding startups, research institutions, and doctors working tirelessly to improve human life. All of them could benefit from data unlocked through blockchain and the analytical power of artificial intelligence.
The average hospital generates 760 terabytes of data per year, but 80% of that valuable data is unstructured and unavailable to researchers. It is necessary that they remain safe and that patients consent to their use. This separation slows down progress in all areas of medicine. The combination of blockchain and AI can share this data for analysis, facilitate patient consent, track clinical data usage, and much more..
Without blockchain, artificial intelligence lacks the ethically sourced and protected biomedical data it needs to find new solutions. Without artificial intelligence, the huge amounts of data protected by blockchain remain secure, but unusable for research. Advances come when these innovations work together, just as critical public health initiatives of the past few decades have succeeded thanks to the advent of the World Wide Web. Then, Our goal should be to bring these technologies to market more comprehensively so that long-term care is accessible to all.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Garri Zmudze is the managing partner of LongeVC, a Switzerland and Cyprus-based venture capital company that accelerates the creation of innovative biotechnology and longevity companies. He is an accomplished entrepreneur and angel investor with several successful exits in biotech and technology companies. He has long supported and invested in biotech companies such as Insilico Medicine, Deep Longevity and Basepaws.
Author’s Note: Both companies, Insilico Medicine and Longenesis, are portfolio companies of our longevity venture capital company LongeVC.