Mark Treshock, the global blockchain solutions leader for the Healthcare and Life Sciences business of IBM, spoke on a panel discussion at the Pharma Integrates conference that took place earlier this week in London, about the future of blockchain technology in the pharmaceutical industry.
IBM’s executive presented the company’s work in collaboration with Merck, KPMG, Walmart and the FDA, on the establishment of a blockchain network to track and trace prescription medicine distributed in the US.
While explaining the program, Treshock said that the biggest challenge that IBM has to overcome is to ensure the collaboration between companies across the pharmaceutical industry, which is necessary in order to establish an industry-wide, interoperable system for data sharing.
“It is very hard to get companies that compete with each other to work together,” he said, adding: “And then, if we get them to work together on a single problem, and ultimately we are proven wrong on the efficiency or effectiveness of the solution, that’s a lot of work for nothing.”
In order to better explain the necessity of collaboration, for the establishment of the shared network, Treshock provided the example of an airport used by many different airlines that are competitive with each other.
“This shared resource is used by all for the common good. Imagine a world where each airline has to build its own network; that would be a mess. But that is the system under which we exchange our data today,” he noted.
On his side, Jason Lacombe, the CEO of Veratrak, a spin-out company from the University of Oxford, working on blockchain data sharing technology, commented that blockchain “solves a social problem.”
According to Lacombe, the potential of blockchain technology, which enables privacy and transparency concurrently during data sharing, makes it very useful to be deployed whenever there are ‘issues of trust’ between parties.
“These issues could be between companies, between parties within the same company, even between regulatory entities,” he said, adding that “the resolutions of these issues would smooth out processes.”
“So, anywhere there is a lack of trust in the exchange of information that obstructs a process, we see it as a potential area to apply blockchain,” he concluded.