The next generation of data-driven healthcare is here
Over the past 60 years, the life expectancy of the average newborn has increased by almost 20 years, from 52.5 to 72 years in 2018. We have seen an incredible wave of technological innovation during this time. : The introduction of the Internet, breakthroughs and a better understanding of public health initiatives have transformed the course of human life. And with new technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence now entering the scene, we know an even more radical transformation is coming. These disruptive technologies are paving the way for longer and healthier lifespans.
To show you how much healthcare has advanced using these technologies, I want to highlight a case study of two unique companies, Insilico Medicine and Longenesis. Together, they show how the development of AI for healthcare has grown alongside the advent of blockchain healthcare applications.
In 2014, longevity innovator Alex Zhavoronkov and their company, Insilico Medicine, contacted me. The company was built on a simple but radical premise: using AI to accelerate drug discovery and development. At the time, the use of AI was still nascent, both in public awareness and in its applications to medicine. But in the seven years that I have invested in this company, it has used AI to completely transform research and development in the therapeutic sector. Their rapid discovery and development of new therapies is a result of the incredible amount of data they process in the search for the next best cure. Rich in source and scope, this data comes from the genomic and proteomic sequences of real healthcare patients. Through dozens of new drug candidates, they have shown tremendous potential in using AI for data-driven healthcare.
However, Insilico’s revolutionary advances have not been without obstacles. Working with massive amounts of data presented unique challenges in terms of centralization and security. Data in health care tends to be dispersed and siled. Every doctor, medical center, and hospital maintains their silo, and due to privacy regulations, data is typically only shared when needed for patient care. Having access to synthesized patient data was critical to the success of Insilico’s AI algorithms, and it just wasn’t available.
Privacy and blockchain technology
While seeking solutions to the security and centralization issues associated with this type of data, Alex and the Insilico Medicine team quickly discovered blockchain and distributed ledger technology. The immutability of blockchain inputs and the ability to have multiple decentralized nodes providing data to a shared ledger 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 formed a joint venture with Europe’s leading blockchain company Bitfury (now one of the largest emerging tech companies on the continent) and launched a new company named Longenesis. Longgenesis’s goal was clear: to create a blockchain healthcare ecosystem that takes into account the sensitive demands of healthcare data and the application needs of biotechnology research.
Related: Data privacy concerns rise and blockchain is the solution
Longenesis has designed a blockchain-based environment for healthcare / biotech industry stakeholders, including patient organizations, biomedical research groups, and research partners and sponsors. The beauty of Longgenesis’ solution is that there is always a record of consent. When patients agree to share their data for any purpose, there is immutable proof of their permission.
Its first product, Curator, is used by hospitals and other healthcare organizations to securely and compliantly present available data to researchers without compromising patient privacy. This feature allows researchers to examine datasets without jeopardizing the safety of patient information. When a researcher or a company wants to use the data, Longgenesis’ second product, Engage, provides it. Engage also enables hospitals and researchers to quickly integrate patients into new medical trials and research, by recording patient consent in progress. Whether AI is being used to analyze new data from a medical trial or “old” data from medical records, patients know it and can choose to consent at their convenience. Longenesis has deployed this solution in public hospitals, government biobanks and more. His work gives AI companies like Insilico Medicine access to vast amounts of data that can be used for artificial intelligence analysis, leading to even more treatments and drug discoveries.
Data, blockchain and human longevity
Although I have highlighted two companies here, there are thousands of outstanding startups, research institutes, and doctors who work tirelessly to improve human lifespan. They could all benefit from the data unlocked by blockchain and the analytical power of artificial intelligence.
The average hospital generates 760 terabytes of data per year, but 80% of this valuable data is unstructured and not accessible to researchers. It must remain secure and patients must provide continued consent for its use. This disconnection holds back progress in all aspects of medicine. The combination of blockchain and AI can unlock this data for analysis, facilitate patient consent, track clinical data usage, and more.
Without blockchain, artificial intelligence does not have the ethical and protected biomedical data it needs to find new solutions. Without artificial intelligence, the large amounts of data protected by the blockchain remains secure but unusable for research. Progress occurs when these innovations work together, just as critical public health initiatives of recent decades have succeeded with the advent of the World Wide Web. Second, our goal must be to further commercialize these technologies so that longevity-based care is accessible to all.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Garri Zmudze is a managing partner of LongeVC, a venture capital firm based in Switzerland and Cyprus that accelerates innovative startups in the fields of biotechnology and longevity. He is a seasoned business expert and angel investor with several successful exits in biotechnology and technology companies. He is a long-time supporter and investor in biotech companies including Insilico Medicine, Deep Longevity and Basepaws.
Author’s Note: The two entities, Insilico Medicine and Longenesis, are holding companies of our longevity-focused venture capital firm, LongeVC.