Blockchain technology is finding a new application in medical research, as it allows scientists to collect data for research from a large number of people in a secure manner, ensuring their privacy.
Dexter Hadley, a physician and computational biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, is going to use the technology to collect medical data to conduct research on breast cancer.
Hadley would use the collected data from millions of mammograms to train Artificial Intelligence algorithms to detect breast cancer better than ever.
Women who want to share data can do so breastwecan.org, where they will have the option to give or revoke it. The blockchain technology, in which there is no central repository, and virtually impossible to alter, would secure the data stored in the cloud.
Nebula Genomics, a start-up co-founded by geneticist George Church of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts would connect people who want their genomes sequenced with companies willing to pay for that service in return for access to the resulting data.
The payment would come in the form of digital tokens that can be exchanged.
Currently, firms collecting such data give people no control over their records.
While this would motivate people to share more data with their doctors, enabling better treatments, such wide sharing also would enable advancement in scientific research.
“We need to engage people so that they show us their data,” he says. “So we need to think in medicine about the technologies that let us have good data governance, and blockchain happens to be one of them right now,” Dexter Hadley tells Nature.