For over a year, a growing number of efforts have been undertaken to pilot a blockchain-based network for managing pharma serialization and traceability. It is public knowledge, for example, that AmerisourceBergen has been working with Merck, and McKesson with Pfizer; with the former involving SAP technology and the latter based on the MediLedger project, with MediLedger now being a solution offering from a company called Chronicled. The Center for Supply Chain Studies has been running workshops and simulations on various blockchain offerings for pharma applications. Now, however, one of the vendors that has been a competitor in serialization solutions for pharma traceability (and mostly focused on compliance with either the US’ Drug Supply Chain Security Act, or Europe’s Falsified Medicines Directive) has jumped in front of other serialization vendors with a blockchain offering, called Adents NovaTrack.
Adents offers Seriza, a line and site-level automation solution (Level 1-3 in ISO parlance) for managing the production of serialized products, and Prodigi, an enterprise-level (Level 4) solution for managing serialized data and communicating it to trading partners. Now, with NovaTrack, it offers a platform for communicating and verifying transactions along a supply chain. Adents calls NovaTrack a traceability platform “foundation;” the fact of the matter is that blockchains are only meaningful when multiple participants (such as trading partners in a supply chain) agree to use the platform. Adents’ announcement says that NovaTrack includes “consortium blockchain mechanisms such as identity management, PKI and encryption – ensuring only trusted participants are members of the blockchain.” But this implies that either Adents, some other party, or a yet-to-be-created consortium will exist to manage the network. Network governance has emerged as a critical area of development for blockchain to be a meaningful traceability system.
According to Adents, NovaTrack enables users to become a node on a blockchain network, with the node either operating in the cloud (presumably Microsoft’s) or on-premises. Microsoft touts Azure for its “real-time performance, high scalability, granular business-driven data privacy and security, and energy-efficient consensus” (whatever that is!). Microsoft is a key partner in a blockchain technology known as Ethereum, but it’s not clear that NovaTrack would use the same technology. Microsoft Azure also offers the Active Directory, a security and identity-management solution—and that has clear utility for whatever pharma traceability network might be set up. Yet another dimension of the Microsoft implementation is use of Microsoft Machine Learning and Business Intelligence Services, which the company says gives “the ability to collect and analyze data to transform massive amount of data into actionable business insight.”