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28th June 2019

When healthcare meets A.I. and blockchain

As machine learning advances and blockchain makes waves in the mainstream sphere, forward-looking healthcare industries are branching off from the matured space towards new frontiers.
However, despite more and more countries catching on to the benefits of cannabis for medicinal use, traditional players in the field, such as banks, are the first ones to give the cold shoulder to operators in this sphere, and companies are finding them unwilling to carry the regulatory burdens. Industries like the medical cannabis sector, which is understandably apt to face more legislative scrutiny than most given the grey area it operates in, has found the applications of emerging technologies to be a match made in heaven.

Developing use-cases

One solution hoping to remedy this comes through alternative payment platforms. German start-up, MedPayRx, is one such company to take advantage of the applications of blockchain to healthcare. The company is offering a digital prescription service that bills products, such as medicinal cannabis in the form of digital currency. It also runs an open source platform in order to facilitate transparent cheaper transactions while maintaining a centralised record of prescriptions and patient records.
Aside from providing digital banking services, borrowed mechanisms from blockchain can help in other ways as well. Companies like Paragon are using the technology to revolutionise the way the entire system of manufacturing works, by providing greater provenance and assurances for customers. From monitoring the growth of the plant to shipping the final product, seed-to-sale tracking helps to ensure that nothing less than top quality reaches the patient.
Reviewing each phase of the supply chain through a blockchain enables the patient or buyer to verify the plant has been grown or shipped in conditions conducive to the quality expected in a pharmaceutical product. It can also guarantee peace of mind that the medicine has been verified by the lab producing it, that the production is in line with regulation, and that the strain being sold is what it says on the label. This kind of security is essential for a product still facing a somewhat uphill battle in the PR department.
It is especially valuable for those who would like to stamp out illegal, black-market trade. Roping in block tech helps to mitigate supply chain risks by keeping processes above board and that it is easy to share information amongst stakeholders – its immutable, transparent and auditable nature raises the trust factor by orders of magnitude.
The technology will also come into play for researchers and clinicians. The global market for clinical trials has seen a noticeable boost as countries such as Malta move to regulate the space. With a steady flow of new products hitting the shelves, the process of ensuring that new combinations of cannabinoids are safe and effective becomes of paramount importance. Issues with securing the integrity of data, as well as increasing patient enrolment can be tackled easily through blockchain ledgers.

A.I. enters the fray

There are also interesting examples of machine learning being used to predict product cost, refine the growing process and measure crop yield. Motor leaf have done interesting work using algorithms to track the growth rate of plants more accurately, taking thousands of measurements each day. This is critical for maintaining a consistent quality. Artificial intelligence can also be used to match patients to certain strains, which would be a more personalised approach that could be another major vertical for the industry.
The Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, has given the industry the nod of approval.  Following the launch of The Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Research Purposes Act in 2018, and a government decision to allow the large-scale cultivation of the medicinal plant, the island has fielded significant interest from policy makers and investors looking to set up shop on the island. To date, Malta Enterprise has approved 20 projects. Amongst the companies to have received the go-ahead from Malta Enterprise is Alvit LCS Pharma, a company which is lined up for the upcoming Medical Cannabiz Summit in November. Malta Enterprise has also issued letters of intent to ten companies seeking approval from the Malta Medicines Authority to begin production of the medicinal plant in Malta.
This meshing of industry is a driving force behind the decision to hold the Malta Cannabiz Summit World back to back with the Malta A.I. & Blockchain Summit in November. The week is dedicated to bringing even more value to investors, by providing them with a chance to explore the potential these sectors have to offer as they grow within a forward-looking legislative framework.
The Malta Cannabiz World will take place on the 4th and 5th of November, just one day apart from the winter edition of the Malta A.I. and Blockchain Summit, which will be held on the 7th and 8th.