Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Pitt start-up aims to use NFTs to inform patients in studies of their medical condition


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 21st, 2022

A University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) start-up aims to use non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to inform patients in research studies of their medical condition – filling a gap that has long been an ethical dilemma.

According to heny inc founder and CEO Marielle Gross, if a researcher in a study discovers an illness or a sign of future disease in a participating patient, they aren’t able to let that patient know. When patients sign onto studies, their names and identifying features are taken off of their samples. So, while researchers can use their information to learn more about diseases, the patient is left in the dark about medical information that could potentially be life-saving.

“Functionally what that means is that a whole swath of our population is essentially exploited by this process with no hope of really ever achieving access to the best or the most cutting-edge therapies,” says Gross, an assistant professor at Pitt.

To address this, heny inc will use NFTs in an app focused on allowing breast cancer patients to have access to their biopsy results. According to Gross, the cryptographic, non-replicable NFTs will represent biospecimens to encourage accountability while allowing patients to maintain their privacy.

A pilot version of the app will launch in October. Gross says it will “enable breast cancer patients to track and learn about research on their donated tumor [and] tissues,” and she hopes it will serve as a prototype for the future use of NFTs in bioethics.

Source: Technically

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