In addition to being able to develop blockchain applications with zero-code, scientists can develop simulations to run on the global network of computers. With this,
Crowd Machine’s ability
to use blockchain can ensure data integrity, security, and privacy.
The platform additionally provides an internal economic incentive to source computational resources so that computations can be done with predictable and reliable performance. These attributes make it possible
for decentralized application adoption
in computational drug design.
To understand more about the platform, Digital Journal spoke with
Dr. Matthew Lee, from Caywon
Digital Journal: What are the main challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry?
Dr. Matthew Lee:
One of the biggest challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry right now is counterfeit drugs. Criminals organisations are able to manufacture and sell drugs via the internet to unsuspecting buyers. In fact, it is estimated that up to 30% of drugs in circulation could be counterfeit.
This is a big problem that can’t be solved with a silver bullet. However, there’s no doubt that advances in technology can help regulators and consumers to filter the legal manufacturers from the illegal ones. Blockchain has a huge part to play in this process.
DJ: How prevalent are counterfeit drugs?
It’s estimated that up to 30% of drugs in circulation right now could be counterfeit with emerging markets most seriously affected. The counterfeit drugs market is one of the biggest in the world, with sales estimated to range from €150 billion to €200 billion per year.
The effect of these counterfeit drugs is enormous too. According to the World Health Organization, 1 million people die from taking counterfeit drugs every year, while 450,000 preventable malaria deaths are the result of counterfeit drugs.
DJ: How can blockchain technology help with these challenges?
Blockchain, which is distributed ledger technology, provides a highly secure record of ownership and transactions for any asset that you choose to digitize. Not only that, this record is immutable and virtually impossible to tamper with because of the cryptographic consensus that is used to keep it up to date.
For the problem of counterfeit drugs, blockchain could be a game changer for the pharmaceutical industry. By recording the source of manufactured drugs, as well as the different parties involved in their development and production, regulators and buyers can quickly trace the source of a drug and sort the authentic ones from the counterfeits.
It’s true to say that secure Internet of Things technology, which ensures data being used is true and hasn’t been tampered with at the point of record, is an important component too and these two advances could work to completely eradicate counterfeiting.
DJ: Can it also assist with data integrity, given that this is a hot topic with regulators?
Absolutely. Data integrity is exactly what the blockchain is all about. As mentioned, it is important that it is used in tandem with the right sort of Internet of Things technology so the data is correct at point of record. When recorded on the blockchain though, this becomes an immutable record of source, ownership and transaction.
Not only that, it’s totally transparent and available to view for anyone that is involved in the network. This is important because, as regulatory standards change in some major parts of the world, it provides individuals, not just regulators with the information to make decisions about the origins of their drugs.
DJ: How can Caywon Pharmaceuticals Group assist pharmaceutical companies?
Caywon is a new kind of pharmaceutical company, focused on the product definition stage of the process, that takes advantage of the new Drug Marketing Authorization Holder System that has come into force in China. Essentially, we are a virtual drug company.
We are a research and development outfit that develops drugs and partners with manufacturing companies to go forward and develop the drugs together. That makes it a lot more flexible because we can develop any kind of drug as long as we can find a manufacturing partner.
DJ: Why did you select CrowdMachine as your platform?
Firstly, the no-code development environment that’s available in Crowd Machine will remove the language barrier between our pharma experts and our IT experts. Most domain experts simply did not have information technology as part of their training, so translating their workflow into digital implementation had been challenging at best. When we looked at Crowd Machine’s App Studio, we knew it was going to be a game changer for us. Not only can we build the digital workflow we always wanted, we also have the opportunity to share domain know-how in executable format.
By that I mean when one of our experts develops an App on Crowd Machine, whether it is a calculation for a chemical characteristics or a purchase order automation app, that know-how can be shared with the entire community easily through the AppShare repository. This will significantly improve efficiency throughout the entire industry which is a positive benefit for everyone.
Beyond management workflow, the ability of Crowd Machine to simplify dApp creation will also be a big selling point. Today’s drug developers are increasingly becoming small boutique shops focusing on specialty drugs. With Crowd Machine, we see that it is now possible to quickly develop simulations to run on the global network of computers. Crowd Machine’s ability to use blockchain will be able to ensure data integrity, security and privacy. It will also provide an internal economic incentive to source computational resources so that computations can be done with predictable and reliable performance. These attributes make it possible for dApp adoption in computational drug design.
DJ: Is blockchain technology readily accepted by pharmaceutical companies?
We’re not alone in terms of being a pharmaceuticals company with domain experts that don’t have coding knowledge. When you consider that blockchain development is still a relatively niche skill within technical circles, I’d be very surprised to hear that many companies are readily accepting blockchain. However, more and more are becoming interested in blockchain’s application in pharma supply chain security.
One of the reasons for this is that, in 2013, the President signed into law the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA). This “track and trace” requirement is not just for the U.S. but many major markets all have this requirement. Despite the legal mandate, we are still in the early exploratory stage and the entire industry is still not sure how to implement the technology stack to fully comply with the regulation.
When we consider Caywon’s highly distributed development partnering model, it becomes clear that complying with the “track and trace” requirement is going to be a lot more complicated than many had initially thought. Although blockchain provides a potential solution, it is not clear at this point what is the best implementation. Crowd Machine’s blockchain agnostic approach offers a future-proof technology stack for pharma today to begin experimenting and iterating blockchain solutions.
DJ: Which companies do you work with?
We currently have working relationships with a number of top 50 drug manufacturers in China, although we are not at liberty to disclose their identities at this time due to confidentiality restrictions. In the U.S., we have partnered up with Crowd Machine and Sutton Stone Venture Builders who are experts in blockchain technology solution architecturing. Our U.S. subsidiary Lyon Stone was born as a result of the partnership to develop Crowd Machine Apps for blockchain-based healthcare security solutions.
DJ: What other projects are you working on?
We are always looking for partnership opportunities to bring game-changing innovations to the market that have the potential to drastically improve human health and quality of care. As one example, we are currently investigating a very promising drug candidate for treating myopia in adolescents. If approved, this will be the first-ever approved medication for treating nearsightedness.
We are also in discussion with Medical Wisdom Group and its team of Harvard-trained pharmacoepidemiologist to devise a new way of obtaining and analyzing “crowd sourced” clinical trial data needed to validate this drug. We believe that Crowd Machine will be instrumental in helping us to put together the crowd data sourcing infrastructure we need to obtain verifiable data from wearable-sensors.