While adoption of blockchain is on the rise, lack of skilled staff is hampering its development in the life science industry, finds survey from The Pistoia Alliance

Boston/London, 27th September, 2018: The Pistoia Alliance, a global, not-for-profit alliance that works to lower barriers to innovation in life sciences R&D, has today announced the results of a survey on the adoption of blockchain in the pharmaceutical and life science industries. According to the survey, 60 percent of pharmaceutical and life science professionals are either using or experimenting with blockchain today, compared to 22 percent when asked in 2017; however, 40 percent are not currently looking at implementing, or have no plans to implement blockchain. The biggest barriers identified to adoption are access to skilled blockchain personnel (55 percent), and that blockchain is too difficult to understand (16 percent). These factors underline why The Pistoia Alliance is calling for the life science and pharmaceutical industries to collaborate over the development and implementation of blockchain.


We must ensure that the life science industry has access to the right skills and staff to bring their blockchain projects to fruition, particularly looking to the technology industry to fill the blockchain talent gap. This knowledge will be particularly useful for the 18 percent of life science professionals who admitted to knowing nothing about blockchain. The potential to enhance collaboration and, therefore, innovation is huge“, commented Dr Steve Arlington, President of The Pistoia Alliance.Blockchain provides an additional layer of trust for scientists and their organisations. We hope the security benefits of the technology help to lessen reticence over sharing and transferring data or information, and will facilitate further cross-industry collaboration and knowledge sharing. We believe blockchain will open up new opportunities for the industry to begin sharing data more securely to advance drug discovery, ultimately making patients’ lives better.


The survey also showed life science and pharmaceutical professionals are becoming more aware of the capabilities of blockchain. Respondents believed the greatest opportunities for using blockchain lie in the medical supply chain (30 percent), electronic medical records (25 percent), clinical trials management (20 percent), and scientific data sharing (15 percent). Of the benefits of blockchain, life science and pharmaceutical professionals believe the most significant is the immutability of data (73 percent). Significantly, for an industry with tight regulations, 39 percent also believe the transparency of the blockchain system is its best feature. However, almost one fifth (18 percent) of professionals believe using blockchain adds no value beyond a traditional database, showing there is some reluctance in the industry to use the technology. The Pistoia Alliance believes that some of the misconceptions about blockchain can be overcome with greater education of those in industry.


As life science and pharmaceutical organisations are beginning to look at implementing or experimenting with blockchain, The Pistoia Alliance is working hard to inform organisations on how to implement it safely and effectively,” commented Dr Richard Shute, consultant for The Pistoia Alliance.We are currently focusing on educating scientists and researchers about the potential uses of blockchain technologies outside of the supply chain, particularly in R&D. At The Pistoia Alliance, we want to support our members’ initiatives in blockchain, as well as provide a secure global forum for partnerships and collaboration. I would encourage anyone in the life science industry with an interest to join our Blockchain Bootcamp in October, and Alliance members to get involved in our blockchain community, to share knowledge and best practice.


The Pistoia Alliance is continuing its drive to educate the life science industry about blockchain. You can join The Pistoia Alliance’s two-day Blockchain Bootcamp on the 8th and 9th October in Boston. The event will consist of an introduction to the Hyperledger platform, as well as a mini hackathon incorporating a range of life science use cases, which will allow participants to code their own blockchain-enabled apps in teams. For more information on the event and to register, see here.


A survey of 170 senior pharmaceutical and life science professionals was conducted via webinar in September 2018. You can view the slides and a recording from the webinar.


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About The Pistoia Alliance

The Pistoia Alliance is a global, not-for-profit members’ organization made up of life science companies, technology and service providers, publishers, and academic groups working to lower barriers to innovation in life science and healthcare R&D. It was conceived in 2007 and incorporated in 2009 by representatives of AstraZeneca, GSK, Novartis and Pfizer who met at a conference in Pistoia, Italy. Its projects transform R&D through pre-competitive collaboration. It overcomes common R&D obstacles by identifying the root causes, developing standards and best practices, sharing pre-competitive data and knowledge, and implementing technology pilots. There are currently over 80 member companies; members collaborate on projects that generate significant value for the worldwide life sciences R&D community, using the Pistoia Alliance’s proven framework for open innovation.