In recent times, the drug discovery and development has become a very laborious, time-consuming process and is not often particularly effective. Businesses are facing challenges in developing new drugs like the long-term high risk involved and the process is expensive with no guarantees. But most of the time the drug development companies are struggling with failures, setbacks, the involvement of third-parties, malpractices, and more.
Many pharmaceutical companies dealing in drug discovery and development are always hedging their bets with the latest technologies to solve these challenges. With the new technologies like blockchain making their way into the pharma and healthcare sector, the companies might find faster and more cost-effective routes to the new discovery of medicines.
How can Blockchain help with the discovery of new medicines?
The drug discovery and development industry are looking towards blockchain as a potential solution that can help in the following ways:
Patents and Intellectual property (IP):
Finding any new drug is a very long, time-consuming as well as an expensive process. If the findings are stolen, a drug maker may lose investments worth billions. This is where blockchain also known as the distributed ledger technology can help. Below image can explain how it will work:
IP (intellectual property) is considered as one of the most vital concepts in a drug discovery process which supports the most critical part of the patent – Composition of matter. Proving a patent for any particular medicine requires four aspects:
- Proof of the maker
- When and how was it created
- Ingredients included in the making
- Proof that the content was not altered
Blockchain helps in proving the above aspects by uploading the IP document through a dedicated interface. It will encrypt the data and upload it to a secured enterprise storage system to create a record. This process will generate an encryption key which is shared on the blockchain system, and then a certificate is issued and allocated to all the researchers.
IP significantly helps in maintaining the confidentiality of the data, and trust, timestamp, proof of origin, and acceptance of the legal record can be achieved all at once. The blockchain also helps in documenting the process in a great way, thus ensuring there are no disputes about the ownership.
Royalties and Licensing
Due to a constant depletion in the patient lifecycle, the drug development ecosystem is under a continuous pressure to bring new medicines to the market on a regular basis. But this is delayed by the volatile market dynamics, the time taken for development, large expenses, multiple teams, consumer pressure, and frequent acquisitions and mergers.
The only solution to this is a collaboration among various stakeholders. Partnerships may even take place inter-departmentally within the same organization and this can help them share the research cost.
But sometimes due to lack of trust, splitting of the royalty or licensing fees for the new drug can become complex due to the tracking issues. Blockchain in combination with ‘Smart Contract’ functionality can provide transparency in keeping accurate records of partnerships and royalties.
Research Referencing and Authenticity:
While researching for the creation of any new medicine, the researchers have to carefully evaluate all their sources. When citing the data, they go through various literature, research papers, and make sure that they access the right data sets. But the authenticity and trustworthiness of the source for research is always a questionable aspect of any referencing done for drug research.
In such cases, Blockchain-based data collaboration and sharing makes it easier to authenticate the research document. There are very fewer chances of any unauthenticated content getting into the pipeline.
Prior to getting approvals for the clinical trials of any drug, it is critical for pharmaceutical companies to provide the validity of the data collected during the trials. Being based on a distributed ledger, blockchain technology enables drug manufacturers to provide transparency to their clinical trials and provide proof to the process of collection of data in appropriate ways that are acceptable as per the industry norms.
As on today, blockchain seems to be the most reliable technology that can help enhance the drug discovery and development ecosystem. Creating a new drug is expensive as well as a business that involves a lot of concern for the protection of intellectual property rights. Blockchain can help in addressing such concerns while ensuring the reputation of the industry in the long run.
With the rising cost of the medicines, many pharma companies are on the verge of adopting this new age technology to curb malpractices and counterfeiting of drugs. Blockchain technology has immense potential to help increase profitability, provide sustainability by becoming a platform for a smoother supply chain management process.