Why blockchain in the metaverse is the next big thing for life sciences

  • Posted on October 11, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 7 minutes
Blockchain in Metaverse for lifesciences

It is now well known that the blockchain is more than Bitcoin. The benefits that this revolutionary technology has beyond cryptocurrencies is still a closed book for many. And if you ask ten people about their blockchain definition, you will surely get seven different answers. But for most people it is perhaps not so important to technically penetrate the blockchain down to the last detail. Rather, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms of the technology and, above all, the resulting, versatile, almost infinite benefits.

In this context, distributed ledger technology (DLT) is a term that is often used as a synonym for blockchain technology. Although every blockchain is a distributed ledger, not every distributed ledger architecture is automatically a blockchain. Other popular DLT concepts include “block directed acyclic graphs (blockDAG)” and “transaction-based directed acyclic graphs” (TDAG). For example, IOTA, a communication platform for the Internet of Things (IOT), uses TDAG as the DLT architecture. The cryptocurrency Nano uses the blockDAG architecture to be better positioned in terms of scalability compared to blockchain-based cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

As infinity is not exactly a space in which one can easily find orientation, this blog deals specifically with the potential that DLT brings to the pharmaceutical and life science industries. We’ll take look at the Metaverse, a virtual reality in which many people will spend a significant part of their lifetime in the future. There is enormous potential for companies in the Metaverse, because it allows decentralized business processes to be brought together in a virtual world, making them accessible to all stakeholders at any time and from any location.

Store data, depict facts
Technically speaking, DLT transactions can be mapped in a clearly traceable and unchangeable manner. The basic concept includes decentralized data storage, which distributes information to different instances and ensures that it can only be reunited and thus decrypted with a digital key. And practical? For example, it is about proving a purchase and thus ownership. Or your own identity. Or a personal medical history, which basically consists of a series of entries in a file, i.e., transactions. DLT is therefore about data and what this data represents, what reality it depicts. And the fact that these data records are absolutely forgery-proof and can be exchanged excellently between different instances, organizations,

In the pharmaceutical industry, such transactions, which serve to reflect reality, are the order of the day. So far, they have taken place in ERP systems or in an Excel spreadsheet, among other things, where they lack all the DLT properties mentioned above. In order to finally be as specific as promised at the beginning, I would like to present a few scenarios that describe the benefits of DLT for the industry in very concrete terms.

DLT and Metaverse in clinical trials
A pharmaceutical manufacturer is looking for participants for a clinical study about a specific eye disease. Both healthy subjects and people suffering from the disease are needed. For this purpose, the company is building a virtual laboratory, i.e., an environment in which certain organizational steps of the study can take place in digital space. At the same time, he begins to look for participants for the study in the vastness of the Metaverse – where many people with different interests cavort – including places where people affected by the eye disease exchange ideas.

For the selection of subjects for a clinical trial, much of the preparation, such as interviews and certain pre-medical examinations to test the suitability of potential participants, can be carried out in the Metaverse, using wearables such as smart watches with their integrated health functions be able. The participants identified in this way learn via virtual reality what the study is about, what to expect, and even have the opportunity to explore the premises in which they will be accommodated during the clinical phase in advance, both virtually and in a playful way, keyword gamification. And everything that is generated in this context of data and interaction takes place is unchangeable and securely stored by DLT.

When the study results are finally available, this data is also stored in a DLT architecture, made anonymous and yet clearly assigned to a specific subject profile. They can be used easily and in compliance with data protection as part of the study to derive scientific findings.

The resulting benefits for all stakeholders are significant:
  • The search for and the qualification of participants is easier and faster, is cheaper and can be carried out with less effort for companies and test persons.
  • The participants are closely involved and will be informed and picked up at any time during the study. Travel times and absences from home are reduced, which in turn saves costs.
  • The use of DLT helps to accelerate the evaluation of the data collected. In combination with the organizational time savings described above, the technology brings a significant speed boost - and thus a faster go-to-market and an earlier return on investment.
  • Thanks to DLT, the approval process can be significantly accelerated.

The drug to treat the eye disease will be on the market earlier. The manufacturer is an important step ahead of the competition and is sooner beginning to recoup its investments. The burden on the study participants is lower than usual, so access is easier. The existing usable data will help to fight the ophthalmological disease even better through future research projects that are already planned. In addition, it is conceivable to generate an NFT (Non-Fungible-Token) with the anonymized medical data of the subjects, and thus an IP that is (forgery)-proof can be used for the scientific evaluation of the study. This data set can ultimately also be used for follow-up studies within the framework of the regulatory requirements.

Supply chain, operations, gamification: endless possibilities
The DLT is also suitable for putting the organization of the entire supply chain - for example in pharmaceutical production - on a new footing. All ingredients, including supplier and origin, all transport routes, production steps, production conditions, batch numbers and other aspects can be saved and managed with the help of the DLT - so that the status is transparent down to the last detail at every point in the supply chain. And it is also audit-proof, so that in the event of complications, it is possible to clearly determine where something went wrong and how this can be avoided in the future. Subsequent manipulation is not possible.

Medical data can be stored using DLT with the help of smart medical technology and sensors. This not only ensures clear, legally compliant documentation, but can also help to make tried and tested new surgical methods accessible to many clinics, doctors and students, for example via virtual reality.

And, of course, pharmaceutical companies can use the Metaverse for their customer service by creating virtual environments in which doctors, pharmacists and patients have the opportunity to find out about drugs, diseases, new research findings and therapies, for example. This is where gamification plays a central role: making information a playful experience, low-threshold, amusing offers that are easily accepted because they are fun.

Identify, prioritize, start
The variety of possible areas of application for DLT and Metaverse, the complexity and the speed with which the Metaverse is developing make it difficult for companies to get started with the topic - if they are on their own. They have to know the current and future potential of the technology - and bring it into line with their own requirements and possibilities. In this respect, it is advisable to get help from outside - from consultants with an end-to-end perspective. At Avanade, we not only know the pharmaceutical industry, but we also master the entire process: from consulting to technical implementation and subsequent system support. In addition, we work more closely with Microsoft than very few other companies – and Microsoft is not least thanks to its considerable gaming investments that have both B2C and B2B potential, one of the big players around DLT and Metaverse. Microsoft Mesh, a mixed reality platform for digital collaboration, and HoloLens, the appropriate VR hardware, round off our partner's Metaverse profile.

Microsoft Entra also has great potential in the area of digital identity. Digital access authorizations, vaccination cards or implant passes can be saved in a smartphone wallet. This decentralized identity can be shared with any online service in this way. The system allows digital signatures and creates a high level of security through the DLT. Our Avanade solution is built on Microsoft Entra verified ID. The technology uses Bitcoin or "Public Key Certificates" and is based on "open standards" that increase compatibility with other technologies.

So, feel free to contact us, let's find out together where your company's Metaverse journey can lead and how technologies like DLT can be used efficiently to achieve this.

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