For researchers, funding plays an important role in accomplishing their work. In the healthcare industry, many relevant topics do not get sufficient funding because they are not profitable for pharmaceutical laboratories. Blockchain, which is based on distributed ledger technology, and “smart contracts” are seen as possible solutions to this funding problem.”Blockchain will enable the crowdfunding of health-related research, thereby decoupling funding from business interest and linking it to social needs,” says Simon Janin, software engineer and co-founder, chainSolutions GmbH, Zrich, Switzerland. A smart contract is a computer protocol intended to digitally facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract. Funds that are raised for a research project, for example, can be held in a smart contract which specifies the rules on how the money can be spent. The smart contract is self-enforcing and each party to this contract knows how the contract will behave, thus enabling higher trust levels, Janin explains.Blockchain also offers a way of decentralising information without compromising integrity and security. A key aspect of decentralisation is the use of reputation systems, which can be implemented on blockchains in a transparent way. Blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency (“token”) are recorded chronologically and publicly. “One can imagine a marketplace for medical research where researchers would be awarded reputation, in the form of a token, proportionally to the quality of their research,” says Janin. “This can naturally be extended to reputation-based diagnostics; a patient answers targeted questions and provides his medical data, then a pool of trusted doctors provide independent diagnostics and collegially agree on a final diagnostic.”

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