SCI-CHAIN: The blockchain platform for sharing lab research and medical data to accelerate work on a vaccine and improve knowledge on COVID-19
In the context of COVID-19 pandemics, the time to delivery of essential data to apply countermeasures and design a vaccine is of utmost importance. However, at the current pace of the spread of pandemics across the world, reliable research and medical data is broadcasted too slow to peer reviewers whose feedback is crucial to turn the research into material product approved by the Regulator, manufactured in a factory and delivered to the general public. This is predominantly due to three reasons which are described in detail below.
Bureaucracy The slowness in publishing research work is caused by repetitive and redundant administrative tasks unrelated to the research effort, such as a need to secure copyright over the content, providing a unique vocal intellectual property recognition back to the author or her/his employer, using qualified digital signatures to validate the identities of authors and publishers, and selecting information hubs of high reputation from data availability and security perspective.
The erosion of trusted third parties Traditionally, authentication, timestamping and reputation are provided by central authorities or recognized bodies. However, these are now overrun by emergency tasks and are further impacted by a reduction of available staff to support the ongoing activities. A weak level of digitization also hampered the pace at which critical research data is published or distributed due to a need for a series of in-person interactions to collect the necessary administrative paperwork before a formal submission can take place.
Duplicate work Proliferation of copies of the same data generates redundant activities across small community pockets unrelated or unaware of each other. Subsequent research linked to a particular copy would gather a limited recognition and cause a duplication of work based on the same piece of data. As a result, these issues are burning scarce time and resources.
Our platform is a showcase of functionalities that allow for a submission of research data and tracking of subsequent activities related to its lifecycle (peer reviews, approals for manufacturing and other activities). It does so while making sure the integrity of data and unique identification of changes is maintained. We intend to address this platform to two parties holding distinct roles:
End users (research staff, peer reviewers, academics, general public) From the user perspective, our application is leveraging BCAssetManagement, an integrated IBM-owned framework for acceleration of application development for demonstration purposes. Our application built on the basis of that framework will allow every submission and subsequent interaction of a research or medical data is supplied with a (i) digital timestamp of the data regardless of its binary and presentation form supplied with (ii) cryptographic proof of document content, (iii) a unique identifier of a content submitter and (iv) capability to register subsequent activities that can be tracked to a uniquely identifiable piece of research.
Trust anchors (public safety bodies, general government, health and safety agencies, regulator) From the service provider perspective, we build our solution on the backend that is based on Hyperledger Fabric, an open-source permissioned blockchain platform developed by Hyperledger and licensed under Apache 2.0. This choice is allowing service providers to deploy an application to avoid relying on central gateways that are prone to failure or delayed actions. Blockchain built in form of a distributed ledger network will address the need for data immutability, timestamp and tracking capabilities.