Unlock met with Dr. Axel Schumacher, CEO and Co-Founder of project Shivom who has over 20 years of Experience in R&D in Genomics. In this exclusive interview, he sheds light on the disruptive role of Blockchain in the healthcare industry.
As Schumacher stated “Blockchain will disrupt almost all areas of healthcare. The technology offers the possibility to place the patient at the center of the healthcare ecosystem and thereby to increase the security, auditability, privacy, and interoperability of sensitive health data. Blockchain will always be valuable in situations where data is transmitted from one entity to another, starting with electronic medical records.”
Axel explained that in the short term, blockchain will be primarily useful in areas where we can expect a high need for innovation and a good chance of short-term returns on investment, primarily the pharma supply chain, the precision medicine ecosystem (or personalized medicine), ‘Health Insurance/Payments’, and Internet of Things related to healthcare and fitness.
In a Blockchain backed up future, companies in the healthcare space have to be flexible and open to adopt the new technologies early, in order to ensure their survival. Schumacher added “Although some companies in the healthcare space are beginning to understand the merits of exploring developments in the blockchain space, overall expertise is still very poor and several years behind other business verticals such as fintech. Companies that cannot pivot their businesses to accommodate blockchain ecosystems may not survive in the future, or will lose market share.”
Axel pointed out that a starting point would be for the healthcare industry to turn to industry-wide collaboration to share the cost burden of basic research tasks and to find common standards for interoperability. Some examples of collaborations in the healthcare and blockchain space include the ‘Hyperledger Healthcare Working Group’, ‘Hashed Health’, and the ‘Blockchain for Healthcare Expert Circle’.
The name Shivom is partly derived from the Indian Shiv and Om, both meaning destruction and life. The name is compatible with the project’s vision to help destroy every disease known on earth and foster new life. According to Axel, “ Shivom is the next evolutionary step in recent developments in the fields of genomics and blockchain, bringing both technologies together. For the first time ever, an ecosystem will offer an open web-marketplace for other providers to add their apps and services, alongside genomic data analytics and personalized medicine.”
Axel is not weary of competition, although there are several groups that are interested in putting genomic data on blockchains. However, the competitive edge of Project Shivom resides in its comprehensive business model that leverages game theory and network effects to establish a fully integrated healthcare service system with long-term sustainability and the possibility for users to monetize their data.
Giving Unlock some insights on its potential partnerships, Shivom will collaborate with many experts and organizations in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Schumacher mentioned “We have already many interested parties and some established collaborations, for example the IOTA Foundation and the government of the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh. For long-term technological sustainability, we intend to work closely with organizations such as the Metadata Task Team of the Global Alliance for Genomics & Health, as well as Pistoia Alliance, the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC) and the EBI Ontology service.”
Commenting on the importance of data privacy, Axel said “As long as human beings are involved, no technology can provide 100% security. As such, for the Shivom ecosystem, we strive to apply ‘Privacy by Design,’ meaning that data protection measures are designed into the development of all our business and research processes for products and services.”
Axel insisted on their commitment to adopt all data security frameworks such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).” To ensure the security of the distributed ledger technology, Axel mentioned that they will heavily invest in cryptographic layers that will keep sensitive health data private and safe.
Finally, there is a significant interest in the MENA region in enhancing healthcare by adopting new transformative technologies, which triggers the interest of many startups including Shivom.
Schumacher expressed “The MENA region is an ideal place for population health studies. There is a huge need in those areas to adopt genomics medicine, as shifting socioeconomic factors such as increased income and better access to modern amenities have led to widespread lifestyle changes, fueling a rise in lifestyle-related illnesses such as cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”