2018 – Switzerland’s de-centralised political culture proved to be a catalyst for FINMA to become the first regulator in the world to publish clear guidelines on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and classifications for tokens. And as the interest and applications for blockchain in other industry sectors grow, Pharma companies in Switzerland are now playing a leading role in the development of blockchain for the international health sector.
There are over 250 pharmaceutical companies based in Switzerland. These range from start-ups, to multinationals. The Pharma sector employs 44,000 people in Switzerland and generates more than CHF 20 billion. in gross added value each year.
Here we spotlight two examples of Swiss companies blazing the trail in blockchain development in the Pharma sector.
With reported revenues of USD 207.7 billion in 2020, Novartis is a successful multinational pharmaceutical corporation based in Switzerland and the US – and one of the top 5 Pharma companies globally based on revenue. A supply chain technology architect at Novartis Switzerland, Daniel Fritz, worked with his team on a proposal for a public-private partnership within the EU known as The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) to explore using blockchain in healthcare.
Sponsored by the IMI and the EFPIA, under the Horizon 2020 Program, a project referred to as PharmaLedger was founded. This 36-month project brings 12 global Pharma companies – and 17 public and private entities together with the goal of creating a scalable blockchain platform validated through reference user cases in supply chain, clinical trials and health data, to ultimately support trendsetters and forerunners in the industry.
- The first application for the PharmaLedger project is set to provide patients with electronic medical leaflets. These are essentially digitised versions of the important medical information normally found in paper inserts in consumer medicine, and which are legally required by health authorities.
- The reason behind this is that currently, there is no way to get updates or immediate changes to patients due to the complexity of the supply chain. With blockchain, the aim is to be able to provide secure updates in almost real-time.
- One year after bringing the 29 partners together and securing funding of USD 22.1 million, Novartis and Merck have begun testing this technology.
The global pharmaceutical industry spent a reported USD 13.4 billion shipping temperature-sensitive biopharmaceuticals in 2017. But the refrigerated or “cold chain” as it is known, is low tech and often wasteful. Transport is usually in Styrofoam coolers with frozen gel packs inside. And the WHO estimates that up to 40% of vaccines shipped worldwide, degrade due to temperature variation during transport.
- More than 60% of temperature deviation examples affecting the quality of biopharmaceutical shipments, occurred at airports with medicines on pallets waiting to be loaded onto planes.
- Cold chain security and tracking visibility are essential for biopharmaceuticals, which is exactly why the Swiss high-tech company SkyCell, is very active in this area.
- SkyCell has created a blockchain-enabled and refrigerated air freight container built out of a patented insulation. Temperatures are regulated by a special rechargeable passive cooling technology.
- The containers are also equipped with sensors to monitor temperature, humidity, and geolocation.
- SkyCell’s own cloud platform records all the air freight documentation required, such as bills of lading and customs forms – and this for each container on a Blockchain-like ledger.
- This provides a level of supply chain visibility and security that now equates to SkyCell being in the top 3 leading suppliers globally in the cold chain.
Blockchain technology was developed as a secure tracking capability for crypto currency. But what started out as a tool purely for use in Fintech, has now transcended other sectors and is being implemented in various supply chain tracking and update applications. Switzerland has played a leading role in Blockchain development from the outset and with the latest moves into Pharma and Transport, it continues to be at the forefront.
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