With an abundance of innovation already taking place in the field of genomics, the addition of blockchain technology opens the door to even more opportunities. Blockchain-based genomics platform Shivom and it’s partners are positioning themselves to step through that door. Last month, Shivom announced a partnership with SingularityNET, another blockchain-based platform and marketplace for AI. The goal of the partnership is to combine and maximize the value of each of the businesses’ networks and leverage each other’s engineering teams. Integration of the two platforms will allow SingularityNET to be able to request Shivom datasets and allow Shivom customers to utilize SingularityNET’s AI analytics on data uploaded to the Shivom platform. Since both Shivom and SingularityNET are, in part, financed through initial coin offerings (ICOs) which awarded contributors tokens that allow for transaction on the respective platforms, the integration of the two networks will allow for automatic conversion between Shivom’s OmiX tokens and SingularityNET’s AGI tokens.
“We are excited to work with SingularityNET. AI approaches are well suited to model the complex dependencies in the regulatory landscape of our genome and can help to predict an individual’s probability of developing certain diseases,” says Co-Founder and CEO of Shivom, Dr. Axel Schumacher.
To learn more about Shivom’s big vision and how individuals and institutions will be able to leverage the Shivom platform, Medgadget heard from Shivom’s Co-Founder and CSO Gourish Singla. Mr. Singla also provided insight into Shivom’s ICO and the resulting OmiX tokens for those interested in that aspect of blockchain technology projects. For even more details, the Shivom whitepaper can be found here.
Medgadget, Michael Batista: Shivom has created an impressive vision of the future combining genomics, blockchain, and now artificial intelligence, to drive value-based precision healthcare. To start, can you tell us more about what Shivom hopes to achieve and what motivates you and your team in that mission?
Gourish Singla: At Shivom, we have a goal of making the world a better place; even if we can only play a small part. We want to have a global impact by revolutionizing the status quo of today’s healthcare systems. We achieve this by enabling the individual to control their own healthcare data and in turn have more control over their healthcare decisions. It should be the individual who decides what happens with their personal information, especially when it comes to their genomic data. These decisions should not be made by companies that store or have access to all the data.
Shivom utilizes blockchain technology to give individuals ownership of their data by controlling who accesses their information. This might include: their physician, an institution whose research they would like to support, or a pharma company that’s developing a treatment for a condition they may have. In doing so, we hope that Shivom will become a place for secure data storage and exchange. As the number of users on the platform increases, we can develop a massive data and precision medicine marketplace where many different healthcare services can interact to use healthcare data through specific permissions. This marketplace will allow data to be more valuable, more open, and more secure. We will leverage state-of-the-art technologies such as artificial intelligence to make the data in our ecosystem actionable. In turn, the platform will help people be healthier, while simultaneously reducing healthcare costs. To achieve our mission, we have gathered an impressive team of people from around the world. These experts have experience in AI, genomics, bioinformatics, business strategy, cryptography, computer science, IoT, futurology, and precision medicine. Our experts will research and develop integrated strategies to help Shivom create an innovative ecosystem that will transform global healthcare.
Medgadget: How does Shivom benefit from the use of blockchain technology? Could what you are trying to achieve have been possible before? In a similar vein, why is now the right time for Shivom’s mission to become a reality?
Singla: Blockchain is driving businesses to rethink existing business models, re-examine opportunities previously thought to be non-profitable, and facilitate innovation. Blockchain technology is a central part of our precision medicine ecosystem because it is the optimal technology to build a platform for trust. Blockchain has many key features that make it ideal for the storage and sharing of genomic data components. Primarily, blockchain offers an additional level of security, as data cannot be revised or tampered with. This is particularly crucial for the highly regulated medical field. Also, blockchain can help enable layers of privacy, ensuring that identities are kept private, and users’ information isn’t easily accessible, which makes people more eager to share their valuable data for the greater good. Blockchain can also help connect stakeholders, which eliminates unwanted middlemen that increase costs in healthcare systems. The technology is ideal for international services, so Shivom can help underserved markets such as transitional countries in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East. All of this is done through the decentralization of information (i.e. data is not stored in one centralized database), so blockchain offers no single hacker access point. With the help of smart contracts, blockchain allows for real-time transactions to occur automatically via pre-defined agreements. This will make transactions in the Shivom ecosystem fast, cheap, and error-free.
In theory, it would probably be possible to build such a platform with other technologies, but blockchain makes the whole process much easier. Many technologies go through specific evolutionary phases. We are now in a particularly exciting time because several technologies have reached a certain level of maturity, a technological tipping point, where these technologies can be used in entirely new ways. These technologies include genomics, blockchain, artificial intelligence, cybernetic implants, augmented reality, big data, and robotics. At Shivom, we are working with these technologies to build something completely new and groundbreaking.
Medgadget: Shivom is the first company Medgadget has interviewed who completed an ICO. For those who are unfamiliar, can you explain what an ICO is and why Shivom chose to use an ICO as a mechanism for financing?
Singla: The term ICO stands for “initial coin offering,” and refers to the creation and distribution of digital tokens. It is similar to a crowdsale in that a startup company creates a certain number of digital tokens and offers it to the public, usually in exchange for other cryptocurrencies. In 2018, ICOs overtook venture capital as the primary source of funds for blockchain startups. Typically, a token is a symbol of a contract; once created, a blockchain platform will serve as a smart notary for all the future transactions with those tokens, making sure all the conditions are carried out.
A token crowdsale was the logical choice for our business model because Shivom is heavily driven by networks, wellness enthusiasts, patients and early adopters – token crowdsales foster community-building and engagement. The ICO helps our users feel more closely connected to us. This is important because our goal is that a worldwide community becomes part of Shivom, not just a few selected investors. We are building a platform for the greater good; here, token distribution protects Shivom from surrendering a portion of our equity to hostile companies and outside control. This allows our team to keep the ball in our court and steer the development of the company.
Also, timing is critical; precision medicine is taking off right now and we must move quickly to take a global leadership role. This requires liquidity, which would be difficult with traditional VC’s, where a startup is often not able to expand quickly without holding an initial public offering (IPO) or selling securities in some other way. With network effects and increased adoption of the platform, the utility of and demand for the Shivom platform and related products/services can increase exponentially. Since we are tapping into a massive potential user-base, almost all of the 7.6 billion people on earth, and we are focusing on incentivizing users on the platform, the ICO has helped us begin developing a huge community that can sustain the operation, security and vitality of our precision medicine ecosystem in the long-term,.
Medgadget: Participants in the ICO receive a token, in Shivom’s case OmiX. What is the purpose of the token, how is it used?
Singla: The OmiX token is the fuel of the Shivom ecosystem and is necessary for all transactions that occur on our platform and potentially on other, connected healthcare ecosystems. Users will use the OmiX token to access and procure healthcare related products and services. For example, users will be able to exchange tokens for obtaining genome sequencing kits, access health/fitness apps from 3rd party providers, purchase health-related products, analyze information on their pharmacogenetic profile, and get personalized lifestyle, diet, and nutraceutical advice.
Additionally, healthcare organizations can use OmiX tokens to sponsor sequencing projects, access the genome database and analytics services, pay donors for participating in research studies, get storage space for proprietary DNA sequences for tamper-proof IP protection, and access bioinformatics services. Tokens are digital and cannot be counterfeited or reversed arbitrarily by the sender, unlike credit card charge-backs. Tokens use a “push” mechanism that allows the token holder to send precisely what he or she wants to the healthcare provider with no further information; lowering the chance of identity theft. Also, the robust encryption techniques employed throughout the distributed ledger are a safeguard against fraud and account tampering and improves consumer privacy. Overall, a token-based incentive scheme enables Shivom to introduce not only novel precision medicine services and products, but also an entirely new user-driven ecosystem.
Medgadget: Which stakeholders benefit from Shivom’s blockchain-based platform? As an individual or organization, how do I engage with Shivom?
Singla: Almost all stakeholders in current healthcare ecosystems can benefit from interacting with the Shivom ecosystem, including patients, healthy individuals, pharmaceutical companies, research organizations, insurance companies, universities, governments, employers, and more. Typical customers will include organizations who can generate the most use out of large, aggregate sets of healthcare data to advance their R&D programs. In addition, customers will also include organizations who will save money by utilizing the vast amount of data stored in these datasets. These organizations may be pharmaceutical companies, academic centers or research organizations that are conducting population-based studies. Insurance companies may leverage our platform to search for and analyze data to identify disease hotspots or environmental factors that contribute to disease. Hospitals and medical doctors can use the database to find better treatments for their patients. Patient support groups may be able to sponsor new research projects, tailored to their community. For the typical user who wants to manage their health on our platform, she or he will be able to do that via our web portal on a desktop or their mobile device.
Medgadget: Shivom recently announced a partnership with SingularityNet. What does this partnership mean for Shivom?
Singla: Shivom is a global healthcare ecosystem and as such, it functions through partnerships. The SingularityNET partnership is especially exciting as it perfectly complements our services and expertise. SingularityNET is composed of pioneers and innovators in AI and deep learning. They are known for being one of the contributors to the development of the world’s first humanoid, “Sophia.” Because the SingularityNET AI team is involved with a number of research projects, including those that look at the genomics of longevity; connecting our data sources and platform capabilities will bring many synergies. SingularityNET’s decentralized AI network provides an open market for anyone to develop, share, and monetize AI services and algorithms. AI approaches are well suited to model the complex dependencies within genomic data and can help predict an individual’s probability of developing certain diseases. Consequently, AI will play a central role in our platform for achieving greater depth in the interpretation of genetic information, including understanding how an individual’s genes may impact their lifestyle decisions and helping healthcare providers design therapies. It is our goal that AI agents on SingularityNET who require healthcare data will be able to request datasets from us. In return, if a Shivom customer asks for AI analytics to be performed on their uploaded medical data, the Shivom network will be able to request the technology from SingularityNET.
Medgadget: Where is Shivom today? Can I upload, monetize, or otherwise leverage my genome? What are some of Shivom’s upcoming milestones?
Singla: We are building an innovative and complex platform. Therefore, we need to plan the rollout of the platform components carefully. We expect that by the end of the year the platform will be at a point where people can start managing their genome data in our ecosystem. In the meantime, we are already running pilot projects around the world (i.e. in India and Africa) to test our sequencing services, bioinformatics pipelines, and some of the other platform components such as the security and smart contracts. In 2019, we will add additional features and healthcare networks to the platform. Stay tuned!