EXCLUSIVE: Why This Company Chose To Build A Supply Chain For Human Reproductive Material Over The Bitcoin Blockchain
This company is utilizing Bitcoin’s (CRYPTO: BTC) blockchain in helping keep track of unique and personal human biospecimens like sperm, eggs, embryos, tissues, and organs.
Precious Belongings, Precious Coin: “I like to think that our genetic material is our legacy, and should transcend lifetimes,” said Wei Escala, founder and CEO of Eggschain.
As per Escala, preservations of biospecimens needed a decentralized approach because even though the current methodologies of record-keeping involve diligence, centralized records suffer from a weakness.
“Data history may be lost or temporarily inaccessible, at times due to malicious outside forces.”
Eggschain, a healthcare technology startup whose operations span across technology, reproductive medicine, and scientific research, turned to blockchain, specifically Bitcoin’s network to eliminate risks posed by centralization.
“Using blockchain to store encrypted transaction records provides an audit trail of key events. This history is immutable and cannot be altered. This new supply chain solution aims to provide a universal tracing and tracking platform to deliver peace of mind for people, families undergoing IVF [In vitro fertilization] and the professionals who are serving them,” said Escala.
But — Why Bitcoin? Bitcoin isn’t really the cryptocurrency that is discussed in context with smart contracts or decentralized applications or DApps; so — why opt for Bitcoin?
“Building on Bitcoin was very appealing to me because it is the oldest and most battle-tested blockchain in existence, likely to exist beyond our lifetimes,” the entrepreneur told Benzinga.
Eggschain opted to build on Bitcoin through Stacks (CRYPTO: STX), a blockchain that enables smart contracts and DApps functionality around the apex cryptocurrency.
Using Stacks helped Eggschain avoid “high gas fee,” while leveraging its security, said Escala. Another reason for picking Bitcoin was Stack’s smart contract language “Clarity.”
“I found it to be very straightforward, easily readable, and easily reviewable. Partly because it is based on functional programming languages. I have always been a fan of functional programming languages,” Escala, a 15 year veteran of software leadership, said.
Location, Location, Location: For the owners of genetic material that is stored for extended periods of life, knowing where it is at any given moment is important.
The decentralized nature of blockchain is ideal and “makes them the most secure and safe design for data history backup,” explained Escala.
“The biospecimen belongs to the customer; the ultimate ability to know the latest location or status of the biospecimen should also be shared with the customer.”
Counting Your Eggs: HeLa, an immortal cell line, which is the most widespread cell line used in research, originated from cancer cells taken from a 31-year old Black woman Henrietta Lacks in 1951. She passed away the same year.
Lacks was never informed that her genetic material would be used for research and her family had no access to her patient data, nor did they gain monetarily from the use of her cells.
However, this instance has shaped how consent and biomedical practices are viewed today, as per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Benzinga asked Escala if putting biospecimens on the blockchain could lead to their monetization.
“Regarding potentially getting compensation, it depends on the laws of the country. In some countries, sperm and/or eggs can be donated with compensation (to the donor) that may be incurred as a result of the procedures for collecting sperm and/or eggs,” revealed Escala.
For now, Eggschain is focused on tracking, matching, and inventory management of biospecimens through what they claim to be the first patented solution that combines genetic materials and blockchain.
The Outcomes Are Life-Changing: “A human egg (in a woman or extracted to be preserved) is a cell. A sperm is another example of a cell. In fact, the human egg is the largest cell in the human body,” explained Escala.
The Eggschain CEO said that if these cells are cryopreserved for the future and outlast the individual donor there will be “estate plans that clearly outline a consent or lack thereof to donate, transfer, or other decisions.”
Then there are embryos and umbilical cord tissues, which have their own impact. Women and men may choose to preserve their eggs or sperm because they are not yet ready to start a family or are still looking for a partner.
Women suffering from cancer or other life-threatening diseases could choose to have their eggs or sperm frozen before undergoing radiation or chemotherapy, said Escala.
The same also applies to men or teens undergoing certain treatments who can opt to have their sperm or eggs frozen earlier in life to give them a shot at having children later in life.
“The owners of bio-specimens can make any decision he/she desires regarding the transfer of ownership or keeping those biospecimens to themselves and/or their families for future use.”