Blockchain has wide-ranging applications, some not even remotely related to Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies. We tried to understand it’s an application within the pharma industry, and how it could possibly disrupt and revolutionize the biomedical domain. Seemingly, Pharma is a complex topic for the average Joe and warrants inputs from industry experts.
We recently got in touch with Dr Jonathan Fior, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Innovative Bioresearch to delve deeper into the subject. Dr Jonathan’s interview reveals key insights into how blockchain can be employed within Pharma and what awaits for us in the future. He tries to build a macro-level understanding of the industry and by sharing his experience with Innovative Bioresearch. Let’s deep-dive into the interview:
1What is the concept behind Innovative Bioresearch? How did this come into being?
Innovative Bioresearch Ltd is a biotech company founded by Italian research scientist Jonathan Fior with the goal of bringing innovation to the field of HIV, cancer and regeneration research. Notably, we are developing “SupT1 cell infusion therapy”, a cell-based HIV treatment estimated to be a lot cheaper than conventional antiretroviral therapy (ART) and than any gene therapy offered by other competitors.
The treatment is based on the groundbreaking research paper of Jonathan Fior (Fior J. SupT1 Cell Infusion as a Possible Cell-Based Therapy for HIV: Results from a Pilot Study in Hu-PBMC BRGS Mice. Vaccines. 2016;4:13 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/271289
There were 36.7million people infected by HIV globally in 2016, 17.5million of which were left untreated, according to UNAIDS. Our mission is to develop a low cost cell-based therapy solution for HIV to allow access to the treatment for those individuals who are normally left untreated due to social and/or economic limitations. We believe that this is exactly what the blockchain should be about, having the collectivity solving a global issue with decentralization means as a cryptocurrency.
Company founder Jonathan Fior was the first scientist to believe in the potential of the blockchain for biomedical research, issuing the first real biotech token with actual scientific publications, INNBC (InnovativeBioresearchCoin), in 2018. Since then we developed a very large and healthy community that supports INNBC. Behind INNBC there are many years of hard work and investments to perform and publish the research.
Given that the ICO market in 2017 was basically killed by bubble soap projects not solving any real issue inflating the market, as research scientists we believe it is our duty to bring something as solid and concrete as scientific research into crypto so that our society can actually have a return from crypto in terms of drug development for addressing global health issues such as HIV, cancer, and recently COVID19. As such, during 2018, INNBC was issued with no ICO as a truly community-driven project supported directly by its community.
2How does it aid medical research? What are the inefficiencies within the current biotech research organizations/systems?
First, it is revolutionary how INNBC is decentralizing funding of biomedical research, bypassing economical conflict of interests of centralized pharmaceutical companies not wanting certain cheaper therapies to be developed as they aim to make as much profit as possible off of AIDS and other diseases. Our founder, Jonathan Fior, believes that “no one should make large profits out of the misery of others”; we developed INNBC allowing the collectivity to directly support the development of such therapies. INNBC is a coin with a conscience.
Next, we are working on a specific implementation of the blockchain technology for biomedical research to help research scientists speed up the process of drug development.
Traditionally, all data generated by scientific research is collected in the form of a scientific article, which is published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and it is usually made available on the NIH’s PubMed database (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed). When a novel therapeutic strategy, such as our novel cell-based therapy for HIV, SupT1 cell infusion therapy, goes through the several stages of clinical research, different research teams all over the world may perform the research. And once the therapy is finally approved for human treatment, different clinicians all over the world may administer the treatment to patients.
This means that when a research team wants to perform clinical research, they have to go through the tedious and time-consuming process of searching for all the published data from previous trials, read all the papers, select the useful data, and make the best possible interpretation of the data to create a protocol for their trial, personalizing it for their typology of patients.
In fact, every patient may have different individual characteristics (e.g., age, ethnicity, HIV tropism) and thus may require personalized treatment protocols. And the same issue is present when clinicians begin to administer an approved treatment to patients; they have to go through all the papers and make a best guess on what treatment protocol should be used. As mentioned, this process of accessing clinical data can be quite tedious and time-consuming, but it can also introduce human error.
To address this issue, we are developing a DApp featuring a decentralized database permanently storing all the present scientific data indexed on PubMed, but offering a much better way to access such data. To migrate the data into our decentralized database, we aim to create a user interface where users can have an automated algorithm to perform the first step of data integration (e.g., the text of the scientific paper and the graphs and numbers are added automatically), and then the user will have to manually check that everything is correct, and apply the necessary corrections. The draft will then be approved by more and more users, and only when a certain number of users have approved the draft, it gets added to the database, similarly to when a transaction is approved in the blockchain. Users will be rewarded a fee in INNBC for the “scientific mining” of the data.
The revolutionary change we aim to introduce is to present the data in a much more useful way than a traditional centralized database like Pubmed. We work on an algorithm that will offer a visual representation of the data, accessing and elaborating the data on the fly; statistical analysis (means, standard deviations, correlations, power) would be available and shown as interactive graphs and figures. This means that in the case of vaccine development, the app could even elaborate all the available information and offer the elaboration of suggested treatment profiles that could work best for each type of patient.
This would take away the burden of having to manually search and process all the data as in the current centralized databases. And such an application would have an infinite potential for growth. For instance, an amazing feature could be to store in the database the genotypic information of the HIV virus carried by each patient, allowing to keep track of all mutations and genetic modifications caused by the treatment as well as the resulting viral phenotypic changes.
Therefore, such a database would be constantly growing and evolving as new parameters are added to it, and it would be always available, anytime, anywhere, and to anyone connected. Such an app would help speed up tremendously the clinical development stages of our AIDS cure research; it could be a game-changer.
3What are some key use-cases of Innovative Bioresearch token or how will the proceeds be used?
INNBC is meant to be used as a means of payment to access our medical products. As such, we are in direct control of the drug prices, which we aim to be extremely affordable even for low income countries.
However, as we research scientists are also very ambitious people, we also wanted INNBC to become the most widely used form of digital payment. In order to achieve mass adoption of crypto we believe that a coin must have the most common utility and real world use case people would understand; that is, to be used to buy physical goods and items.
Therefore alongside the biotech specific implementations of INNBC, we started working on more general use cases. In this regard, we launched a series of prestigious partnerships with commercial companies to use INNBC. For example, we launched a partnership with the French electronic giant ARCHOS (https://www.archos.com/corporate/press/press_releases/EN_PR_ARCHOS_Innovative_Bioresearch_20180709.pdf), where vouchers are given at discount for purchases to INNBC token holders. Next, we made agreements with local merchants in Italy to have INNBC accepted as a means of payment.
Notably, we had one of the largest construction companies in Messina, Italy, accepting INNBC to buy any material and services to build or restructuring your house (we released a youtube video on this https://youtu.be/Tqkx4a554wM).
Nonetheless, we recently launched an official INNBC eBay store (https://www.ebay.it/usr/innovativebioresearch) where you can use INNBC to buy various items, starting with electronic products such as crypto hardware wallets, smartphones and accessories, and we will keep adding products as we make agreements with different brands.
We also believe that in order to bring crypto to the mainstream, we need recognition by big brands. Amazingly, we were able to attract the attention of car manufacturer Nissan, which featured our CEO for advertising the supercar Nissan GTR on their official social channels (https://twitter.com/InnBioresearch/status/1284975408727887880?s=20 ). A partnership with Nissan is therefore in the work, stay tuned for upcoming news!
As mentioned, we aim for INNBC to be not just a biotech token but also a complete crypto product. For this reason, we recently launched INNBC defi products. Specifically, we created two products; “EARN”, and “SECURE”
“EARN” will allow you to earn stacking bonuses that instead of being issued in INNBC will be issued in USDT. The bonus rate will start from 6% annual rates for holding 500$ worth of INNBC up to 20% for holding over $2000 worth of INNBC. Bonuses will be distributed every 6 months during a 12-month-old holding cycle.
“SECURE” will be limited to a closed number of users who commit to a monthly purchase and will hold their tokens for longer periods. We will offer a price protection mechanism where more tokens are issued to your wallet in the event that price goes down, so your balance will stay the same. When the price goes up you will have the option to sell 5% of your holdings through our smart bot that can sell the tokens without causing price dump.
4How do you see the BioTech Industry being revolutionized with Blockchain? With COVID-19’s vaccine in clinical trials, do you think it could be employed there?
We believe that decentralizing the funding of scientific research is a major revolution that INNBC and thus crypto can bring because public funding holds us back significantly in terms of scientific development. Funding is generally dictated by centralized funding institutions and governments, allowing only a limited range of research projects to be developed, leaving so many promising research projects to die.
In addition, funding by public grants is completely inadequate and can take years to be issued, while in order to quickly address health issues such as COVID19, we research scientists need to have all the necessary means to promptly start working. The blockchain technology has the power to change this. Just like it can give us freedom of money, as often mentioned by Binance CEO “Changpeng Zhao”, it can also provide us with freedom of scientific research.
The blockchain could even provide a better review system than NIH peer review system that is not perfect and has several flaws; a much better system we will work to introduce would be a decentralized network of research scientists approving the research results just like miners approve genuine transactions, and receiving a reward in INNBC tokens spendable to perform more research, so that only productive scientists and quality research would be rewarded in such a system.
With regard to the applications for COVID19 trials, the same considerations we expressed previously for HIV research apply for COVID19 research, as well as for any research. We need a better way to access scientific data, and blockchain technology can seriously help. There are some specific features of blockchain technology that are very useful for scientific research.
•Immutability. Scientific data need to be immutable. Once a study is peer reviewed and published, its data must be permanently stored and never altered. In the blockchain, all data is stored in every single node, never ceasing to exist, and always staying on the blockchain. It is immutability that gives the blockchain its openness and BFT (Byzantine Fault Tolerance).
•Decentralization. The blockchain is designed to be distributed and synchronized across networks, making data freely available to anyone. We believe that scientific data should be shared and not being hidden behind a firewall.
•Security. The kind of transactions that can be performed are strictly defined in advance and stored in the blockchain as “smart contracts”; this prevents fraudulent data from being added to the blockchain thus ensuring integrity of the database. By contrast, it would be much easier to compromise a centralized database.
In conclusion, although it is true that such an application could be implemented with a centralized system, decentralization is the only way to ensure the data is not manipulated, and all information is publicly available in a platform that can’t be influenced by the will of any particular entity or government. Decentralization is essential to hand over administrative authority from central institutions managing the data, such as governments and private entities, to the collectivity.
In fact, if the database is controlled by one single entity, be it a private entity or government, it means that such entity has total control over the database, and such control can be influenced by personal conflicts of interests. Therefore, decentralization is the only way to ensure that scientific data become public property. In addition, in terms of costs, creating an infrastructure ensuring the same level of data integrity protection of a smart contract, which is basically impossible to compromise, and most importantly, maintaining such a platform up and running, would simply not be feasible.
5You mainly talk about INNBC, but what about INNBCL? What is the difference between the two tokens and why you issued two assets?
Thank you for this question. INNBC (InnovativeBioresearchCoin) is the original and main token issued by Innovative Bioresearch for developing our novel AIDS cure research. INNBCL (InnovativeBioresearchClassic) is a sister coin we issued at a later time after a fork requested by our community. While INNBC is a low supply high value and more stable kind of coin used as a means of payment, some users wanted a larger supply lower price and more volatile/speculative asset, and we listened to the community and issued INNBCL. INNBCL quickly became very popular among traders.
Now, we research scientists love to study many different things, including the market. There are different kind of users in crypto, wanting different kind of products. Just like Samsung issue different TV models, high-end expensive ones for those wanting the highest specs, and cheaper models for those who want the least expensive option, we also issued different tokens to provide the most complete offering for our users.
INNBCL also contributes providing further funds to our research so we can also work on our cancer and COVID research projects in addition to AIDS, and the dual token system allows us to create some very interesting synergies. For example, holding INNBCL makes you eligible for INNBC airdrop and bonuses, just like when we recently listed INNBC on top exchange BigOne, and INNBCL token holders were rewarded by INNBC bonuses. The opposite is also true. We recently held an INNBCL airdrop contest where top INNBC traders would be rewarded with INNBCL.
The main difference is in the utility. While both INNBC and INNBCL are accepted by us to access our biotech products, currently only INNBC is accepted as a means of payment for the other products including those offered by our commercial partners, as it is a less volatile asset.
6Anything else you would like to add about Innovative Bioresearch or your future roadmap? The exchanges you are listed at, the technology, and the founder of the project?
Listing on high liquid exchanges is important for providing users with the most rewarding trading experience. INNBC is currently listed on several good exchanges such as the top exchange BigOne, STEX, Crex24, Mercatox, FineXbox. INNBCL is listed on Crex24, FineXbox, Etherflyer. Both tokens are listed on CoinMarketCap. We constantly look for new promising exchanges to list our assets so the list of supported exchanges will continue to grow as we expand.
We are currently looking at Kucoin as the next step for our token. However, having our token used as means of payment is what can really make a difference in terms of demand and thus market value for our token, and this is why we are working hard on this aspect. INNBC isn’t just a gimmick you can only trade on exchanges, but a stand-alone digital payment system you can already use to purchase items.
INNBC is also the main and most established coin released in Italy. And we also have an expanding local userbase. We are working closely with local commercial activities to provide all the assistance they need to use INNBC as a payment system, and our presence on the territory makes a difference in terms of trust. We have local representatives you can talk with face to face, people who will assist you and who also have their own commercial activities and understand what merchants need.
Our economy was highly damaged by the COVID19 lockdown, and many activities closed doors. Together, we are studying with the local merchants to use INNBC to jumpstart our economy and reborn stronger than before. INNBC is not a token of the people behind a laptop, but the token for the people on the street.
As a next step in our roadmap, we aim to integrate INNBC as a payment system in an increasing number of activities and companies. Both locally and internationally. At the same time, we aim to complete our animal research and obtain approval for human trials for SupT1 cell infusion therapy in the next 2 years.
A few words on our founder, Jonathan Fior. He dedicated his life to the quest of developing a cure for AIDS. He was born in Los Angeles, USA, 1982, to Italian parents. Jonathan’s parents moved back to Italy when he was a child, and he completed his education in Italy, a country known for its excellence in the education department.
He was always fascinated by science and completed a Bachelor of Medical Biotechnology in the University of Milan, Italy. Upon graduation he immediately started working in the field of HIV research, first in the “Luigi Sacco” University Hospital, Milan, then in the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, one of the most advanced research institution in the country.
He conceived the idea of using irradiated SupT1 cells as a decoy target for HIV-1 to prevent CD4+ T cell depletion as well as to render the virus less cytopathic. first exploring this approach in an in vitro setting in his 2012 publication. He then wanted to start in vivo animal testing. Such studies are very expensive, however. Given the lack of public funding opportunities, he decided to start his own research company founding Innovative Bioresearch in 2014 and initially started to support the research through his own private funds raised by his successful trading activity.
Interestingly, Jonathan Fior has a past as a successful stock trader and therefore a strong economy background as well, and the migration to the crypto market with his own crypto-asset felt quite natural for him. He uses to say that: “before I was investing in speculative assets, with crypto I became the speculative asset”.
But the real inspiration that made him go into crypto is the sense of a community cooperating for solving issues for the collectivity, such as supporting the development of an AIDS cure. This is why he called the DApp in development “You’re not alone”. In his vision, the application will also document the progress of our AIDS cure research project, featuring periodic updates such as articles, vlogs.
This will create a community where HIV seropositive people can stay up to the date, comment, share, interact with us working on the cure, and with each other. Something that creates a bridge between HIV seropositive people and us research scientists working on the cure. Something that allows the HIV seropositive community and anyone interested to be part of this journey.
Something that can send the message that they are not alone in their battle. That we are fighting for them. That we care about them. A message of hope. Our vision and intention are therefore to create an application that will also act as a social app for HIV seropositive people to participate and create new topics and discussions to support each other and stand together in the fight against AIDS.
Discussions will be moderated by a team of moderators, and qualified physicians will also participate in the community for providing expert medical advice as a free service to the users. The application will also provide information about all the ongoing clinical trials, how to participate, and once the treatment is approved, it will provide information about the clinics and hospitals offering the treatment, and how to make appointments with legit clinicians that are officially collaborating with us.
Never heard about this company though the roadmap seems interesting. Must say that the interview was actually a very long read and I did lose focus a bit here and there. Will google to find more about them…