Inkrypt and Translo Partner on Blockchain-Based, Secure, Shareable Healthcare Data (Interview)

By | December 3, 2018

Last month, two startups out of Harvard Innovation Labs announced a partnership to enable patient-controlled sharing of biomedical data from a decentralized platform. The underlying system is provided by Inkrypt, a privacy-centric decentralized content hosting platform. Inkrypt uses a decentralized storage architecture, blockchain technology, and an anonymity overlay to ensure secure, tamper-evident, and censorship-resistant hosting and delivery of data. Building on Inkrypt is Translo, a decentralized, patient data-sharing platform that accelerates scientific achievement by catalyzing collaboration in biomedical research. Translo is working to provide a permissioned access system in an interoperable format for various types of healthcare data, including electronic patient health records and genomic data.

The partnership will combine Inkrypt’s secured cloud hosting service with Translo’s permission access platform. This provides robust security to protect Translo’s interoperable data from unauthorized access. Translo also plans to operate a data access request system and a search algorithm for its data on the Inkrypt network.

“Translo is tackling the fundamental flaw of data silos and lack of interoperable data formats in the healthcare and pharma industries. Enhanced collaboration and data sharing, in a unified format between these institutes, can revolutionize pharma and healthcare research and solve the dire issues we face in the fields of diagnostics, treatments and cure,” says Dr. Muhammad Ali Chaudhary, Co-Founder of Inkrypt. Commenting on the partnership, Kamran Khan, Co-Founder and CEO of Translo adds, “We firmly believe that privacy is a fundamental human right, therefore our partnership with Inkrypt makes perfect sense. By utilizing Inkrypt’s robust storage infrastructure, we can focus our efforts on other key aspects of our development.”

To learn more about Inkrypt, Translo, and the partnership, Medgadget had a chance to hear from Dr. Chaudhary as well as Farhan Javed, Co-Founder and Corporate Development Lead from Inkrypt and Kamran Khan from Translo.

Dr. Chaudhary, Co-Founder & System Architecture Lead, Inkrypt

Medgadget, Michael Batista: Thank you for taking the time to tell us about the recent partnership between Inkrypt and Translo. To begin, tell us a little about the motivation behind Inkrypt and what sets Inkrypt apart in the market, as well as from competitors?

Dr. Chaudhary, Co-Founder & System Architecture Lead, Inkrypt: The principle behind Inkrypt is that open access to authentic and resilient information is the bedrock of a free society. With all of Inkrypt’s founders deriving their origins from geographies with restrictions on free flow of information, they have experienced censorship first hand and realize the impact of censorship on society. In this context, they set out to create a platform that provides secure, private, and censorship-resistant cloud hosting services to the masses.

Inkrypt’s novel coupling of a decentralized encrypted storage architecture and an anonymity overlay sets it apart from other decentralized storage solutions as it not only provides data resilience and protection through distributing multiple encrypted copies of content across many storage nodes on the network but also ensures unhindered access to data for appropriate personnel by cloaking all network communications in a layer of anonymity. This makes tracking, compromising, hacking, or censoring data extremely difficult for any malicious actor.

Medgadget: Let’s get a little more technical. What are the components to Inkrypt’s cloud-based hosting platform? Can you explain how each component of the platform contributes to Inkrypt’s overall objectives?

Dr. Chaudhary: The Inkrypt platform is based on three main components: distributed storage architecture, anonymity overlay, and blockchain incentive structure,

(1) The distributed storage architecture divides content up into small fragments that are encrypted, replicated, and stored across the network on different storage nodes using a graph-based data management system. This technique of distributing redundant copies of file fragments across the network ensures persistence of content on the network as well as efficient query and reproduction of data upon request.

(2) The anonymity overlay shrouds all communications on the network so data in transit cannot be monitored. This anonymity protects data when it is moving from one device to the other and also ensures that the privacy of the publishers, storer, and accessor of information is maintained. This private communication system also adds an extra layer of security to the data on top of encryption.

(3) The blockchain forms the base layer of the Inkrypt protocol and creates an incentive model for data storage and delivery that ensures that the network is sustainable and efficient. Clients that want their content hosted on the network have to pay a fee for their hosting needs while storers and distributors of content need to be compensated for providing resources to the network. This exchange of value, between parties, is recorded on the blockchain, with the accompanying metadata associated with the content, in the form of a smart-contract that governs the hosting of content on the network.

Medgadget: Who will be using Inkrypt in the future? What are some specific use cases for Inkrypt’s platform?

Dr. Chaudhary: Inkrypt is slated to launch its testnet (an alternative blockchain used for testing) in Q1 2019. This launch will be coupled with the release of multiple decentralized applications (DApps), the most noteworthy of them being nLIGHTn. Multiple strategic partners are also building on top of Inkrypt.

nLIGHTn is a secure and censorship-resistant publishing platform for content creators and citizen journalists. With all the basic capabilities of publishing, peer-to-peer interaction, and the ability to form social groups, nLIGHTn can be used as a template to build social media, micro-blogging, and other social interaction DApps in the future.

In addition to these DApps, through strategic partnerships, Translo, a healthcare data-sharing company, and Poet, a content attribution/licensing service, are actively building on top of Inkrypt.

In the future, Inkrypt will fulfill the needs of all industry verticals that require a secure, efficient, and private cloud hosting solution. This list includes, but is not limited to, banks and financial institutions, hospitals, public records, social media, as well as media and entertainment.

Kamran Khan, CEO, Translo

Medgadget: Shifting gears, can you tell us about Translo’s platform and capabilities?

Kamran Khan, CEO, Translo: Translo is a privacy-preserving biomedical data-sharing platform built to accelerate biomedical discoveries. Translo creates a mechanism to convert various electronic health record formats to FIHR HL7 interoperable format. Through two different portals, we give clinical trial teams access to anonymized EHR data that they can then use to shorten the cycle for patient recruitment – something that is made incredibly complicated due to inclusion/exclusion criterion. Our user-facing platform also allows this EHR data to be paired with Real World Evidence, which is the true cost-saver for most drug development platforms. By leveraging this real-time clinical data, Translo can identify patients and sites that match the eligibility criteria for pharmaceutical companies and Contract Research Organizations (CROs). In addition, Translo is developing an analytics platform that helps CROs better access this data and gain insights. This enables efficiencies and drastically reduces the time to market.

To summarize, Translo’s value proposition lies in the following features:

  • Interoperable healthcare data
  • Distributed and secure data hosting to ensure PHI protection and HIPPA compliance
  • Patients ownership and complete autonomy over healthcare data
  • Real World Evidence (RWE) to support clinical trials’ protocol design and patient selection
  • A global marketplace for data exchange

Medgadget: How does Translo aggregate health care data on its platform from various sources? How is health care data stored and accessed by users?

Khan: Translo primarily aggregates health care data through partnerships with small and large patient care centers where patients want to connect to clinical trials. Doctors release data for patients that agree to be a part of the platform and Translo takes that data and anonymized it, only giving companies access to non-PHI (patient health information). Information Translo does not share would include identifying information such as name, address, phone number.

Data from different formats is taken and then converted to a standardized FIHR HL7 protocol while being stripped of all PHI, allowing for greater transparency and ease of use for organizations looking to run analytics to improve patient care. PHI information is hashed and is stored at the partner’s site. Data is then encrypted and stored on Inkrypt’s decentralized anonymous cloud. The data storage is off-chain and encrypted in secure data vaults on the Inkrypt network. Organizations looking to recruit patients have access to the data that is easily searchable.

Translo utilizes a blockchain layer to manage identity and data access permissions. Using smart contracts, Translo can control data access on a granular level to enforce HIPPA compliance. This provides an audit trail and ensures data is accessed in a permissioned manner.

Medgadget: Who will use Translo’s platform and what will they use Translo for?

Khan: Translo’s testnet is scheduled to launch in Q2 of 2019. Upon launch, Translo’s ecosystem will provide services to patients, biopharmaceutical companies, CROs, and healthcare organizations.

Translo provides patients with their longitudinal healthcare records through the patient portal. This empowers patients, allows them to share this data directly with their caregivers, and enables them to sell this data directly to biopharmaceutical companies as part of their Real-World Evidence endeavors. In addition, this portal establishes a direct communication channel between biopharmaceutical companies and patients for clinical trial purposes.

Currently, site and patient recruitment is a relationship-driven pursuit and is prone to overestimation of patient availability. Translo utilizes real-time clinical data to match sites and recruit patients for a given clinical trial due to the complexity of inclusion/exclusion criterion. It currently takes someone running a clinical trial months to find the right candidates to participate. Our platform will allow them to shorten this timeline by 90% because 60% of the information needed to determine whether a patient fits this criterion is part of our database. Random forest modeling allows Translo to fill in the data gap for information not currently present. This significantly decreases patient recruitment timelines and enables biopharmaceutical trials to fulfill their recruitment goals.

CROs lack real-time clinical data and therefore are challenged to bid for projects effectively. Translo provides clinical data and the analytical tools to adequately assess availability of a cohort at a given site. This allows CROs to bid for appropriate projects and avoids unnecessary protocol amendments.

Finally, Translo enables healthcare organizations to attract more clinical trials so they can generate additional revenue and aide in developing new therapies.

Farhan Javed, Co-Founder & Corporate Development Lead, Inkrypt

Medgadget: Where did Inkrypt’s interest in partnering with Translo come from?

Farhan Javed, Co-Founder & Corporate Development Lead, Inkrypt: Inkrypt is an infrastructure project that is creating an ecosystem of security, privacy, and censorship-resistance. As a result, high-impact verticals that deal with very sensitive data, such as healthcare and the usage of patient information, became spaces of interest to us. Healthcare was also a vertical that Inkrypt’s team was comfortable with as Dr. Chaudhary, one of our co-founders and System Architecture Lead, is a physician by training and uses big data methodologies to answer health-policy related questions as a researcher at the Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. Further, like Inkrypt, Translo is also a thriving participant in the innovation ecosystem at Harvard and a leading venture based at the Harvard Innovation Labs. This has allowed both teams to grow close, attain a nuanced understanding of each other’s value proposition, and identify synergies.

Medgadget: What benefits do both Inkrypt and Translo gain from the partnership?

Javed: The value proposition of Inkrypt hinges on providing secure and censorship-resistant data hosting for sensitive data. Healthcare and financial data are, perhaps, the most sensitive types of data hosted on the internet. A partnership with Translo gives Inkrypt the opportunity to showcase its robust security and data access system for other use cases. Additionally, the network traffic Translo brings to Inkrypt will be invaluable to bootstrap the network and make it sustainable.

Khan: Translo handles patient data so extreme diligence is required to shield sensitive protected health information from cyber breaches. Therefore, a partnership with Inkrypt not only ensures data security, but Inkrypt’s anonymized communication system also provides protection for data in transit in the Translo ecosystem. This is a necessary solution for the healthcare industry and Translo is excited to join hands with Inkrypt in tackling this issue together.

Medgadget: Which blockchains do Encrypt and Translo use today? Can you comment on the interoperability between two different blockchain-based technology platforms?

Dr. Chaudhary: Inkrypt, by virtue of its modular architecture, is blockchain agnostic. The blockchain only provides the base incentive layer for the protocol and any smart-contract enabled blockchain can be used for this function. Currently, Inkrypt is building its blockchain layer on the RChain ecosystem due to its virtually infinite scalability and concurrent processing capabilities.

As Translo is a data access control and permission system for healthcare data, hosting contracts will be processed on Inkrypt’s native ecosystem while the data permission system is going to run on Tranlso’s protocol, allowing for HIPPA compliance and seamless integration with Inkrypt’s hosting services.

Medgadget: How does Inkrypt differ from other blockchain-based storage platforms like Filecoin?

Dr. Chaudhary: Inkrypt’s core differentiation from Filecoin is native anonymity. We are the only decentralized storage protocol that totally operates outside of the clearnet and makes use of anonymized nodal communications.

Native anonymity is crucial for user privacy and unhindered access to data. IPFS (InterPlanetary File System), Filecoin’s underlying protocol, uses an IP address (i.e. geo-location)-based peer identity system. All network communications on IPFS are visible on the clearnet. Even if you were to use a Tor connection with IPFS, the anonymity of the accessor might be preserved but the node serving as gateway is still visible and can be blocked to impede access to information. This means that malicious actors can still easily geo-locate nodes and impede the flow of information using IP blocks. This happened in Spain during the Catalonia Referendum when people were trying, unsuccessfully, to use IPFS to circumvent Spanish censorship. This is likely what would also happen if IPFS tried to operate in other censorship-prone regions.

On the Inkrypt network, all communications between the nodes are on i2p, the Invisible Internet Project, which ensures the whole network is cloaked from discover. Peer identity is established through cryptographic identity rather than IP address.

Medgadget: To close, for Translo, a number of companies, including EMR themselves, are beginning to create pathways for health data exchange. Why is Translo a differentiated approach to interoperability that will gain traction in this busy market?

Khan: The difference lies in ownership. Right now, hospitals and data-holders are the owners of the information, and the patient has no control over their own healthcare data therefore derive no benefit from its utilization. However, with Translo’s patient-centered ecosystem, the patient owns their healthcare data. The individual is in complete control of who can access their data, know how it is being used, and gain benefits in two key ways: (2) monetary benefits from use and (2) depending on what type of data they give, they’ll be the first to know about potential clinical trials and have the fastest pathway to enrollment.

Translo creates interoperability between electronic health record systems and offers complete longitudinal health records for patients. This enables biopharmaceutical companies to access complete histories of patients, which has not been the case historically. Moreover, Translo create a direct mechanism for biopharmaceutical companies to search for data and run analytics on Translo’s platform instead of solely relying on third party biomedical data brokers. These efficiencies are a value add and sets Translo apart from the competition. Lastly, Translo utilizes a blockchain layer and distributed storage to ensure privacy and security beyond HIPPA compliance. We strongly believe that ensuring trust and security will promote data-sharing between patients and institutions.

Links: Inkrypt and Translo…

Announcement: Inkrypt forges partnership with Translo to provide secure decentralized hosting to healthcare…