Assessing Blockchain Potential in Clinical Research Project Management through the Colony dApp

Abstract

This report contains an analysis of the Colony decentralized application (dApp) in the context of clinical research. Detailed use case simulations, cost breakdowns, and competitive analyses were used to evaluate Colony’s potential. The findings provide significant insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the Colony platform, as well as the challenges of blockchain implementation in the clinical research space as a whole.

Introduction

Prerequisites

Figure 1. The Colony Network structure.
Figure 2. Parts of a domain hierarchy for a colony developing a web service.⁴
Figure 3. Reputation flowing up a domain hierarchy.⁵

Use Case Exploration: Clinical Lab Management on Colony

Selecting a Use Case

Figure 4. Interface of Colony Management: Root and Lab Domains as well as Task Overview.
Figure 5. Sample Task with relevant skills, domain, due date, etc.
Figure 6. Summary of Colony’s value-adds.
Figure 7. User case scenario of Colony.
  1. The research organization has three labs — each within their own domain — that have one project manager and 10 staff members.
  2. Every staff member uses the Colony dApp.
  3. All ETH costs from using Colony come from the costs associated around the date of publication using the Colony Beta including the average mining fees at the time.
  4. Costs associated with storage, broadband, and power will not be analyzed.
  5. The 3% cryptocurrency token fee for using the Colony Network is not included.
  • Creating a colony and native token
  • Individual account setup
  • Adding special permissions
  • Creating a task
  • Evaluating a task
Figure 8. Colony’s weaknesses compared with the tools currently adopted in the industry.

Conclusion

Colony’s Strengths, Weaknesses, and Potential

Figure 9. Blog posts about colony updates and improvements.¹²
Figure 10. Commit history of Colony network on Github.¹⁵
  1. Domain knowledge limits flexibility: In clinical lab settings, most research specialists have a nuanced understanding of the project and research pipeline. Consequently, it is difficult to delegate tasks to third-parties without sacrificing efficiency.
  2. Accountability and auditability suffer with off-chain tasks: Since most clinical research work involves physical access to resources, developing a consistent data entry and validation mechanism is a significant challenge. In a similar sense, constructing verification processes that are non-digital provides additional layers of challenges for a blockchain implementation.
  3. Clinical research best-practices evolve slowly, and greater development of a decentralized ecosystem is needed: Considering most health-related data is stored on HIPAA-compliant health record databases, specific mechanisms need to be developed to interface with the overall health ecosystem. Additionally, most project management/oversight tools in the market today interact with a suite of add-ons with varying degrees of functionality. These tools complement workstreams, and provide project managers with immense flexibility. The equivalents to these tools have not translated to decentralized applications, limiting their potential.
  1. Auditability could be game-changing: In a world where seminal research developments grant credit to a few individuals despite having many contributors, an immutable record could highlight the contributions of all parties and provide more equitable recognition and compensation.
  2. Crowd-sourcing capabilities and data could be effective under particular circumstances: Projects that require large amounts of clinical data to be voluntarily contributed by participants could benefit from blockchain’s systems of trust and authenticity. Additionally, research studies that are digital in nature and require skills in data analysis, software development, and media marketing could tokenize tasks and decentralize talent.

Appendix A: Cost Case Calculations

  • Total Time: 27 months
  • Total Tasks: 20475
  • Average Tasks per Year: 1706 tasks
  • Total Time: 66 months
  • Total Tasks: 63630
  • Average Tasks per Year: 11570 tasks

Appendix B: Terms Sheet

  • blockchain — a distributed, decentralized ledger
  • bounty — a token reward for completing a task on Colony
  • CDM — clinical data management
  • Colony — an Ethereum community management decentralized application
  • Colony Network — the network of colonies associated with Colony
  • colony — a decentralized organization within the Colony dApp
  • cryptocurrency — a digital currency built with blockchain technology
  • DAI — a cryptocurrency that is pegged to assets to maintain a stable value
  • dApp — a decentralized application that runs on blockchain technology
  • domain — a subset of a colony
  • ERC-20 token — tokens created and hosted on the Ethereum blockchain
  • ETH — the Ethereum protocol’s cryptocurrency
  • Ethereum — a blockchain featuring smart contract functionality
  • Gas — a unit for computations on the Ethereum blockchain
  • Gas price — the transaction price per computation paid to miners
  • GDPR — General Data Protection Regulation
  • Gwei — 10E-18 ETH
  • HIPAA — Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
  • native tokens — tokens that are colony-specific
  • MetaColony — the colony run by the Colony dApp team that governs the protocol
  • Program — a structured set of tasks in a colony with levels and badges upon completion
  • smart contract — a computer protocol that runs on blockchain technology
  • task — the base unit of work in colonies
  • token — a cryptocurrency asset

Appendix C: About Us

Organization:

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