Pfizer Executive: Technology Is ‘Basically Good Enough’ to Ramp Up Production Blockchains
Ken Nessel says existing tech isn’t the main hurdle to mainstream adoption — the need for shared infrastructure and governance is.
A Pfizer executive has challenged existing theories about slow rates of blockchain adoption — telling the Consensus conference on May 14 that the technology is “basically good enough to have more production blockchains than we have today.”
Ken Nessel, senior director of business technology at the pharmaceutical giant, made his comments during the second day of the conference in New York City. He joined AstraZeneca’s Kate Gofman for an event called From Bench to Bedside: Blockchains and the Future of Clinical Research.
When asked for an honest assessment about what is holding the blockchain industry back, Nessel said:
“I think there’s a popular perception that the rate-limiting factor in blockchain adoption is something to do with the technology itself — like the technology isn’t scalable, it’s not fast enough, the developer tools aren’t in place…but in my experience is that’s really not the rate-limiting factor at this point. It’s not even at the top of my list.”
Instead, Nessel said the main hurdle to greater adoption is that business competitors have to embark on the hard task of sharing infrastructure and governance. He added:
“You’re going to need to reach agreement on some critical things about who is a member of the network, what’s the commercial model behind the network, what legal form does it take and how you manage that network and that software over time.”
Illustrating how difficult reaching such an agreement would be, Nessel suggested that anyone who was successful would have the international negotiation expertise to reach a consensus on Brexit and Nafta. But striking an optimistic tone, Nessel continued:
“It’s hard work — and it’s going to happen, progress is being made but it doesn’t happen fast. It takes a lot of back and forth to get the right mix of motivations and incentives and the right people at the table to really make it happen. I think that’s what’s making it slow.”
Nessel also said that his philosophy around use cases for blockchain has changed. Now, instead of looking for a home run “that is going to have such a large impact there’s a ticker tape in your honor,” the executive says he now thinks about use cases from an adjacency perspective. He explained:
“If this use case is adjacent to this other one, which is adjacent to this other one, it gives you a ladder — a way to grow and build the impact over time. This is probably the way we’re going to have to get there.”
Earlier this month, Pfizer and three other leading United States pharma companies joined a project to build a blockchain network for the health industry. Known as MediLedger, the technology aims to reduce the number of disputed transactions and improve data sharing capabilities.
In 2017, Cointelegraph reported on how companies like Pfizer had engaged in work to create blockchain systems that track the supply chain of medication from pre-manufacture through until the patient picks up their prescription.