PharmaLedger’s Presence: European Blockchain Convention 2020 Virtual Edition

The European Blockchain Convention (EBC) is a multisectoral conference that covers various blockchain topics to encourage collaboration to move this technology forward.

EBC 2020 Went Virtual

Due to the restrictions regarding COVID, co-founders Victoria Gago and Daniel Salmerón had to reinvent this year’s EBC into a virtual event, streaming all discussion panels online. You can read more about how the EBC was started in our previous article.

25 discussion panels joined by 100 speakers were streamed via an online platform, where viewers could ask questions, participate in polls and network with each other

Salmerón observed that recording the sessions also allowed attendees to go back and rewatch the discussion panels, making the EBC event “live-on for another month.”There were also about twice as many presenters and discussion panels that took place. Gago stated that “On day one, we had about 1500 unique viewers, and the second day we had 1700 unique viewers.

Topics Discussed

A broad range of topics on blockchain technology covered various sectors, such as pharmaceutical, finance, international trade, education, intellectual property, public services, energy, DeFi and supply chain of food sectors. Some discussions also addressed the opportunities and consequences of the creation of a blockchain-based digital identity, cross-border payments and the impact of central banks’ digital currencies. Other panels addressed the regulatory legal framework of blockchain.

PharmaLedger Presence

A total of five PharmaLedger partners participated in the EBC 2020 Virtual Edition, which included an inaugural session and three panel discussions that covered blockchain in clinical trials, pharmaceutical supply chains and its role in a consortium. A summary of each discussion follows.

The five PharmaLedger partners that participated in the EBC Virtual 2020 Edition

EBC Inaugural Session

PharmaLedger’s Industry Lead Daniel Fritz (Novartis) participated in a public inaugural session where he introduced the PharmaLedger project. This session streamed a few days before the start of the event and three important sectors in blockchain were discussed: healthcare (represented by Fritz), finance and public services. Having each of these sectors represented and introduced through other participating speakers was an exciting way to start the EBC event. 

Discussion Panel: Blockchain for Improving Clinical Trials

Disa Lee Choun, PharmaLedger’s DRA Lead Clinical Trials & Health Data (Head GSCO Innovation at UCB Pharma), spoke in the discussion panel titled “Blockchain for Improving Clinical Trials,” which happened on the first day of the event. 

The discussion covered how blockchain can create more efficiency and efficacy in clinical trials for the purpose of creating trust and transparency for patients. Health data collected would be shared with patients and they would feel empowered by having more control over their data and know how it’s being used. Blockchain would also enable better prescreening and better matching of patients with the help of smart contracts. Real time, high integrity and accurate analytics would also allow for clinical trial proactive adoption by patients, which isn’t available today. 

As Lee Choun mentioned, adding innovative technology and collaborating on such a wider scale requires a “cultural mind shift.” Working together in a consortium, like PharmaLedger, helps share the risk and bring the solution into reality of adopting this new technology in clinical trials. Lee Choun closed the discussion saying, “We need to persevere with innovation with blockchain being one of them. Go against the status quo, work how to make it more transparent and work together.”

Discussion Panel: How Blockchain is Changing Pharmaceutical Supply Chains

On the second day of the event, Clarisse Dias da Mota,  PharmaLedger’s  PMO Culture and Adoption (Blockchain Business Analyst at Novartis), and Ken Thursby, Co-lead of PharmaLedger’s eLeaflet Use Case (Associate Director Supply Chain at MSD), covered how blockchain can change and transform the pharmaceutical supply chain by providing transparency and real-time traceability. 

Interoperability was mentioned by both speakers to address the need for a way to take in data already available in the supply chain and be able to process it through blockchain. Blockchain is in fact an enabler of interoperability in many business cases, and it must be built through various standards. When asked if interoperability is feasible, Thursby said in theory, yes, but there has to be a political will for it as well.  Having a public/private consortium approach such as PharmaLedger, helps accelerate the agreement on those standards by bringing awareness to decision makers about blockchain, Dias da Mota mentioned.

The recent COVID pandemic showed that supply chains worldwide are a critical area of our survival, where time is a precious commodity. Blockchain can address tracking supply-demand balances and avoid supply diversion. Dias da Mota stated that “the pandemic has proved that healthcare needs more agility.” She added that real-time data sharing could have helped mitigate a lot of impact on society, but “we weren’t ready.” It was an insightful realisation to what could have happened if there was real-time data sharing. 

Discussion Panel: The Role of Blockchain Consortia

Maria Eugenia (Xenia) Beltran, PharmaLedger’s Project Coordinator (Sr. Project Manager – Head of Big Data at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), took part in “The role of Blockchain Consortia” discussion later on the second day of the event. A blockchain consortium can be defined as an agreement between multiple parties that share ideas that help create a blockchain transformation.

“We are in the early stage of moving data from one organisation to another. Blockchain can be a response to the challenge,” Beltran stated. Interoperability was stressed as being the key to maximizing this efficiency when working with various information systems. Cooperative interoperability works with standards and governance to make this network of trust a reality, where there must be an agreement to how the information is exchanged in this new digital economy.

Beltran added that governance helps implement blockchain into the ecosystem and to create a trusted environment in healthcare. To create this trusted environment, you need this governance to empower the patients. A blockchain consortium exchanges ideas and helps build these standards to propel this technology forward.

EBC 2020 Outtake

The various topic discussions shined insight into the current state of blockchain technology across multiple sectors. When some of the PharmaLedger speakers were asked about their thoughts on participating in the event, Lee Choun stated, “This cross-sharing of lessons learnt from different industries will help us to implement a solution that creates values to different stakeholders.” 

Dias da Mota said that she saw the impact of the EBC event reflected in the number of networking requests PharmaLedger received afterwards. She also added, “I am confident that with our engagement with EBC, PharmaLedger will further reach blockchain enthusiasts and business decision makers, which is what we need to secure a good dissemination of the project.” Encouraging these discussions and meetings helps to accelerate blockchain forward, which is exactly what the EBC and PharmaLedger strive to achieve.

PharmaLedger is looking forward to its collaboration with the EBC. If all goes as planned, future EBC events will continue their usual on-site locations in Barcelona and Copenhagen. 

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