In a November 21 press release, the molecular data company Nano Global announced that it has partnered with the semiconductor firm Arm to develop a system-on-chip which leverages several emergent technologies, including blockchain, in the capture and analysis of “molecular-level data in real time.”
The bulletin suggests that the technology, which “can be used in the recognition and analysis of health threats caused by pathogens and other living organisms,” might have implications on the research and treatment of superbugs and other infectious diseases, as well as cancer.
A video embedded in the announcement explained that the forthcoming technology is expected to “identify molecular structures such as pathogens in the same way that faces are identified today” by facial recognition software. The company expects that the chip will empower those using it not only to “recognize” threats, but to “analyze and act” as well.
Nano Global is not the first organization to intertwine blockchain technology with molecular and biomedical research. In the year 2000, Stanford Professor Vijay Pande launched Folding@Home, a distributed computing project that harnesses unused processing power on machines whose owners have made them available to research protein folding. The findings of these inquiries could deepen our understanding of diseases including “Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's, and many cancers” and potentially enhance our ability to treat them.
Eventually, a related entity emerged that enabled Folding@Home’s contributors to be rewarded for the computing power they lend: the cryptocurrency called FoldingCoin. According to the token’s 2017 white paper, a “Proof of Fold” protocol, pioneered in 2014, issues FoldingCoin to participants who “contribute their cycles to medical research on the Folding@home platform instead of a ‘Proof of Work’ or ‘Proof of Stake’ algorithm on a traditional Altcoin blockchain,” so that the expended power “is not considered wasted.” FoldingCoin is built on the Counterparty blockchain platform, which in turn is built atop Bitcoin.
First delivery of Nano Global’s chips is “expected by 2020.”