Pharma goes deeper into blockchain development


Supply chain security—with DSCSA compliance—could be a near-term use case, says Accenture

Blockchain or, more formally, distributed ledger technology (DLT), continues to bubble through both financial-services and business-data applications across a wide swatch of industries, even though its underlying foundation remains sketchy. In about-to-be-published data, Accenture finds that upwards of 64% of life sciences firms it has polled are either conducting, or plan to conduct, DLT-related pilots, in applications ranging from collecting clinical research data to managing logistics and trading-partner transactions in pharma supply chains. That figure is nearly double where it was two years ago when Accenture previously polled the industry.

Besides the IT poll, Accenture has just issued a white paper, “In Blockchain We Trust: Transforming the Life Sciences Supply Chain,” giving an overview of the technology and pointing to specific applications in creating compliant data systems to meet the mandates of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). “One of the major challenges with track and trace is the effective exchange of data across the ecosystem of partners - from the pharmaceutical manufacturers, to wholesale distributors, to dispensers,” the report declares. “With the use of blockchain, supply chain partners can more effectively and securely share data across the supply chain and, eventually, with the end patient.”

Carly Guenther, Accenture managing director, life sciences, says that pharma applications of blockchain will proceed based on specific use cases, and cites managing product recalls (a requirement of DSCSA) as well as logistics for specialty biopharma products, which usually require temperature-controlled shipping.

Cold chain is also a target application of the Center for Supply Chain Studies (C4SCS), a work group run by Bob Celeste, a former GS1 Healthcare US manager. C4SCS has set up a project study of the application, seeking to combine environmental-condition monitoring (temperature, location, etc.) data with blockchain-connected reporting of shipments. The study is ongoing. A similar effort is ongoing with Chronicled, a San Francisco company that has combined blockchain technology development with a datalogging temperature monitor. The former pharma executives who started MediLedger, a pharma supply-chain blockchain effort, have now joined Chronicled; Susanne Somerville, a former Genentech supply chain manager, is now leading the Chronicled effort. The company issued a new progress report in February detailing its current technology and project-management status.

Want yet another blockchain/life sciences report? DHL, a major player in pharma logistics, paired up with Accenture in Germany to develop its own position statement on the topic, “Blockchain in Logistics,” issued in mid-March. According to the companies, a proof-of-concept pilot study they conducted showed that its DLT technology could manage several billion unique serial numbers at a rate of 1,500 transactions/s. (The ability of blockchains to respond quickly to transaction messages is an open question for adopting the technology to DSCSA.) The DHL report is available here.

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