BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY IN EPIDEMIC R&D: A Global Tool for Secure Data and Information Sharing

The paper offers a unique perspective on the potential impact of blockchain technologies for more dynamic R&D collaboration in the life sciences, and the value of open science to address what is currently the greatest challenge facing humanity.
 
 
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SAN FRANCISCO - May 18, 2020 - PRLog -- In a world in which we are increasingly mobile, outbreaks of both known and novel infectious diseases are a real and unavoidable threat. It is vital that we build improved systems to more quickly detect and respond to new outbreaks. Concepts for such a system are the outcome of research published today in Science and conducted by the Athena Institute of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the RIVM Center for Infectious Disease Control, and industry partner FutureLab.

In the article, the researchers explain that sharing research data and materials (such as genetic codes of the pathogen) plays an important role in responding to outbreaks. A rapid exchange between scientists, governments and companies worldwide is essential for the development of vaccines, diagnostics, medicines and effective public action. The researchers explain how recent developments in blockchain technology, including decentralized identity and verifiable credentials, may help to overcome current barriers. "There are barriers to sharing data and materials, and thereby efficient collaboration. These seem to stem from a lack of mutual trust, lack of clarity about intellectual property and international treaties, and conflicting public, private, and academic interests," say Mark van der Waal and Carolina dos Santos Ribeiro, who are co-authors of the article.

The ORBI's R&D records could be stored in a repository allowing related records to be linked, with data structuring to capture the evolution of R&D branches over time, in a manner similar to GitHub. "These mathematical structures, called direct acyclic graphs, can assist in consolidating IPRs over collaborative inventions, paired with decentralized IDs and smart contracts that define how to equitably distribute ownership among contributors. In turn, these could coordinate auditable distribution of arising benefits (e.g. royalties) to all contributors," says Moses Ma, who is a co-author of the article and blockchain IPR expert.

Publication in: SCIENCE May 15, 2020

URL: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6492/719

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