區塊鏈

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blockchain

大中華中醫藥區塊鏈
➤  何謂『區塊鏈』?

『互聯網』科技經過四十多年的發展已成熟到可以協助促進各門產業的質素大幅提昇。近年在這方面最燴炙人口的資訊科技應是『區塊鏈 Blockchain』了。它的特色在於通過資訊的嚴格加密及由各參與者共同掌握的「分佈性」,從而使得『區塊鏈』內所有的文字、合約和交易紀錄含有的內容基本上無法由任何一方單方面更改或刪除。此舉產生了古人所謂「一言既出,駟馬難追」、「一言九鼎」及「一諾千金」的效應。

由於這種「抗竄刪」及其資訊分散和公開的特性,所有參與的個別機構或人士 (『區塊鏈』統稱所有參與者為『節點 node』) 都難以在網絡內進行「訛騙」、作「虛假陳述」或作「虛詐交易」。由於整個『區塊鏈』的「透明度」極高而「誤報」率極低,所以它及其服務之產業的「可信性」及「信譽」均得以鞏固。「誠信」乃任何產業成功的第一要素。所以世界各地的產業紛紛投放大量資源來將『區塊鏈』納入其日常運作程序之內。

『區塊鏈』內資訊的「共享性」和「共有性」使得它自動變得「去中心化」及「去中介化」。從而容許『節點』之間的直接交流和交易而無需要有「中心」或「中介」從中介入協助。這種「無縫連接」乃催谷產業蓬勃互動發展的一道強力催化劑。

簡單來說,『區塊鏈』含有下面的各種特徵:

  1. . 去中心化、去中介化 (Decentralization, de-intermediary)
  2. . 非對稱加密 (Asymmetric cryptography)
  3. . 「抗竄刪」分佈式紀錄 (帳本項目) (Distributive immutable ledger)
  4. . 紀錄豋記具時間戳 (Record time stamp)
  5. . 智能合約 (Smart contract)
  6. . 全面透明

  7. . 產業信譽與『節點』之間互信的提升
➤  為何倡議成立『中醫藥區塊鏈』?

自古以來,中醫藥人士都憧憬或秉持著「良心供藥,童叟無欺」的崇高理念。遺憾的是,近年來,「人心不古」。中藥的訛詐做假越演越烈。由於競爭激烈,風氣所至,不少殷實中藥商亦難以自免。再加上由於佐證方法的缺乏,具信譽的企業亦未必一定能彰顯其產品的純正性及質保性。在這種氛圍下,上述古訓今天已流為「有心人士」一廂情願的空洞口號而矣。

MCMIA 自廿年前建會以來一直都是以「中藥現代化」作為它追求的目標之一。同時亦希望通過「中藥現代化」來確保中藥的純正和質保,以求早日實現上述的古訓。所以 MCMIA 十年來一直都參與和支持香港政府籌備的《香港中藥材認證計劃》。該《計劃》擬在2020年出台而成為中藥純正和質保的有力佐證工具。

在另一方面,這幾年來,『物聯網』和『區塊鏈』先後登上『互聯網』舞台,分別提供了兩項強而有力的方法來加強消費者與供應商之間的溝通互動以及加強後者對前者的信譽保證,從而敞開了一個完全嶄新的局面。如果能將這些資訊科技與基因、化驗和現代供應鏈管理以及國際公認的規範等共同熔於一爐來指導和監察中藥的種植、炮製、生產、銷售、認證和臨床試驗等整個流程,中藥應可在短期內脫穎而出而成為一先進產業。

➤  MCMIA 與『中文大學』合作研究『中醫藥區塊鏈』構建的可行性

經過多次磋商,MCMIA 與『中文大學』之『李達三葉耀珍中醫藥發展研究中心』於 2019 年初決定攜手成立一個委員會來探討建立一條以香港作為出發點之『中醫藥區塊鏈』的可行性。『中心』亦隨後撥出了一筆「苗種資金」來支援此項目的進行。

該團隊現已招聘了一家軟件公司來組編雛型『區塊鏈』的基礎軟件。MCMIA 則盡力提供各項與中藥相關的標準、指引、規則和規範等以構搭『區塊鏈』的運作框架。同時亦推薦多家『節點』企業,分別以兩條微型供應鏈成員的身份來參與,以求取得初步的運作經驗。此外,亦已有「非供應鏈」的醫藥機構 (如臨床試驗機構) 表示在本『區塊鏈』運行上了軌道後便加入成為「節點」。

MCMIA與『中文大學』以「藥」作為起點大膽地來研究『中醫藥區塊鏈』成立的可行性。由於『區塊鏈』乃「前無古人」的新科技,其可運作性及其缺點漏洞仍未完全被摸索清楚顯露出來。所以團隊對此項目的成功並不能說有一定的勝算。可是具前瞻性的中醫藥專業人士必然看到『中醫藥區塊鏈』的成立乃大勢所趨。問題只是何時成立而矣。

目前『中醫藥區塊鏈』是無先例可援的新生事物。團隊只好盡力參考其他行業的有關經驗,摸著石頭過河,逐步探索尋找可行的途徑。一旦委員會證實本『區塊鏈』切實可行,便會向香港政府申請資助來建立一家公正持平的獨立公營機構 NGO 來進行運作。其最終的目的是要使之成為一家能自給自足,向全中醫藥產業開放及提供正確無誤訊息的全方位「資訊平台」。

➤  採用『GXP規範』

今天幾乎全球 (包括兩岸) 的醫藥都採用 GXP 來規範藥品從種植、炮製、生產、包裝、銷售、化驗以至臨床的整個過程。所以本『區塊鏈』亦擬全面採用GXP (GACP、GMP、GSP、GCP等) 作為釐訂『區塊鏈』內各類『節點』需披露的本身資料、專業行為訊息及交易賬項紀錄等的指引。至於如何界定披露的程度則可能需要在「先導計劃」實施中逐步確定下來。

由於 GXP 乃全球通用的操作規範和守則,所以『區塊鏈』可按個別『節點』所達到的 GXP 水平來釐訂「准入機制」。

➤  『區塊鏈』的組織架構和運作
blockchain organization

『區塊鏈』的架構主要由「節點」群及「區塊鏈」軟件兩個層面對接互動而構成。兩個層面按一定的機制和指引來互相銜接。「節點」層設有「准入」機制,只容許在運作上符合既定最低水平要求的組織方可參與成為本『區塊鏈』的「節點」。「區塊鏈」層設有不容更改之「節點」資料表、產品資料表及服務資料表等各類按「分類賬單」格式列出的實報表單。組織的全部運作由在董事會監督下之幹事會人員來執行。整個組織會定期邀請專業機構按既定章程來進行財務、運作及倫理等審計以確保組織不會偏離原來預設的軌道。

➤  不涉『比特幣』

倡議成立的『中醫藥區塊鏈』的目的是要創立一個鞏固產業信譽與促進企業互信的資訊平台。故此『區塊鏈』不容任何投機性的活動在其平台上活躍。雖然有些『比特幣』及其「採礦」活動在『區塊鏈』有一定的合法合理的正當性,但鑒於目前『比特幣』常被誤用作為訛騙工具,與成立『中醫藥區塊鏈』的本意背道而馳,所以任何的 ICO (首次幣發行) 或任何『比特幣』交易行為都在本『區塊鏈』平台起步階段全部納入禁制之列。

➤  邁向「超現代」的國際中醫藥產業

中醫藥產業蘊藏著雄厚的醫藥「家底」。但由於各種歷史因素,本產業一直未能將現代科技、標準法則及現代管理方法全面應用在產業的建設和運作上。半個世紀以來,醫藥、化學、資訊等各項科技突飛猛進,而這些方面的人才亦已相當充裕。如中醫藥產業能適當地吸納、融匯和善用這些科技和人才,則中醫藥應可在較短期內躋身於國際醫藥專業的前列。隨著國家的崛起和向中醫藥投放的資源大幅提昇,相對於全球其他傳統草藥行業而言,中醫藥應有機會可成為「超現代」的一門醫藥產業。

而『中醫藥區塊鏈』將會是其中恢復中華醫藥信譽、監督行業按規種植、炮製、生產、銷售以及促進『節點』之間的交流和交易的一股強勁動力和一個理想的信心平台。從這些展望來看,中醫藥先輩夢寐以求的「良心供藥」理想,應當可以在這一代人的努力下能得以無可逆轉地全面實現。

➤  『區塊鏈』構建進度
  • 『區塊鏈』的軟件及伺俸器己初步安裝就緒。    2019
  • 各「節點」的資料空報表及其產品/服務表正在嵌入軟件程式內。    2019
  • 已有一家香港及一家內地中藥公司參加成為首批「先導計劃」公司。    2020
  • 擬邀請多三家香港中藥公司參加成為第二批「先導計劃」公司。    2021
➤  參考資料
blockchain
示意圖
本文作者 : 黃伯偉博士 Albert B. Wong, Ph.D.
本文之「短鏈接」: https://mcmia.org/hJXIM/
A Blockchain Platform for Chinese Medicine
The advent of Blockchain, with its unique immutability characteristic for records by means of asymmetric cryptography, decentralization and other attributes, shall be an important tool in the 21st century to reinforce the authenticity, credibility and reputations of organizations and products. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Modernized Chinese Medicine International Association (MCMIA) joined forces in 2019 to organize a blockchain platform to serve the herbal industry in the Greater China Region. It will be opened progressively to the various sectors of the Chinese medicine (CM) industry upon the completion of its “pilot phase” in 2021.
➤  Introduction

Medicines of natural origin are complicated. They usually contain multiple ingredients and their quality is affected by environmental, climatic and processing factors. All these make their monitoring challenging. Despite the adoption of modern horticulture, processing and analytical technologies, there is no effective way to monitor the growth, manufacturing, processing and distribution of these products comprehensively. These inadequacies make it difficult to hamper the occurrence of fraudulent, substandard, and counterfeit products in the market. Recently, a new information technology (IT), Blockchain, has emerged. This provides an advanced approach to address the above problems and helps restore consumer confidence in natural products, especially in Chinese medicine which is picking up momentum in the market since the onset of the Pandemic.

➤  The Blockchain

The objective of a blockchain is to provide a recording system where any dated (time stamped) statement entered into it cannot be altered (immutable ledger). It is highly encrypted (asymmetric cryptography) and lock-stepped (chained) with its previous and subsequently entries. Furthermore, the records are distributed to many independent site-servers (distributive, decentralized) so that any alteration must be performed in all the sites involved.

In a blockchain environment, erroneous statements can subsequently be amended in another time-stamped record. Thereupon, other nodes (blockchain participants) are able to judge if the original mistake was intentionally misleading or not. Consistent records generate trusts and certitude among customers and encourage transactions with the other nodes using the system’s binding contracts (smart contracts) to consummate the deals.

➤  The “Superstructure” of CM Blockchain Platform

In general, there are 3 kinds of blockchains: (1) Open General Blockchain (operated by all nodes), (2) Permissioned Blockchain (operated by a management) and (3) Private Blockchain (operated by private entities). The non-profit CM Blockchain Platform initiated by Li Dak Sum Yip Yio Chin R&D Centre for Chinese Medicine, CUHK and MCMIA employs the “permissioned blockchain” system. MCMIA contributes industry contacts, operational information and the current international guidances to help set the admittance criteria and report requirements. CUHK provides scientific advisory and evaluations for the materials submitted to the Blockchain Platform and to organize and operate the Blockchain Platform itself, including the supervision of the “IT-infrastructure” that runs the software.

➤  Blockchain’s Scope of Operations

The CM blockchain operates solely as an information platform that compiles records which have been duly verified. The blockchain, with its auxiliary software, aims at facilitating interactions, collaboration and transactions among nodes. The CM blockchain management does NOT serve as an arbitrator and would not be involved in any dispute arising from the records submitted by the nodes. For any fraudulent or misrepresented record found, the management could request a new remedial record for rectification. If the situation remains unresolved, the management could remove the offending nodes from the platform temporarily or permanently. Meanwhile, these events are duly documented in the records for all to see.

➤  CM Blockchain’s Organizational Structure

The CM blockchain operates as a non-profit NGO (non-government organization) under the supervision of a Board of Directors appointed by CUHK and MCMIA, and supported by an Advisory Board composed of technical, industrial and independent experts. A Management Team consists of 3 departments (Executive, IT and Publicity) operates the platform according to the guidelines, directives and SOPs issued by the Board of Directors.

The CM blockchain will be audited regularly to ensure conformity to the financial, operational and ethical directions in the Articles of Association of the CM blockchain. As a self-sustaining operation, the CM blockchain charges registration fees and product admission fees to all the nodes and service charges for the monetary transactions on the platform. It accepts donations from supporters sharing its vision. Once the preset amount of the platform’s sinking-fund is reached, the fees charged by the platform should be based on the annual budget need to ensure its effective operations. The platform should be free of any speculative activities as it does not provide incentives for participations in transactions, hence no bitcoin or any form of digital currency will be issued.

➤  Conclusion

The introduction of medical / pharmaceutical blockchains in the 21st century serves to thwart repeated fraudulence and deceptions through the exercise of its immutability within a highly vigilant environment. Hopefully, this feature is sufficient to reinforce ethical standards in healthcare and to affirm consumers’ confidence in the system. If nothing else, the modern day ‘snake-oil’ pushers will now be forced to explain why they refrain from joining the adroitly run blockchains.

Authors:
  • Albert Bak-wei WONG, MCMIA
  • Vivian Chi Woon TAAM WONG, MCMIA
  • Pang Chui SHAW, CUHK
  • Mavis Hong Yu YIK, CUHK
* Originally published in :
   GP-TCM RA Newsletter. [2021-01-21]
   Short URL: https://mcmia.org/rOFYy