Ethan Perlstein, a well known biotech founder and rare diseases advocate recently posted on Twitter that: "once you get a taste of decentralized biotech “it’s hard to go back to the centralized carnival of yore." It's as though he was talking about decentralized science (DeSci) itself. No event gave you this feeling better than the recent DeSci Berlin gathering.
DeSci Berlin was not a regular conference. It was a combination of talks, interactive workshops, and discussions encouraging attendees to self-organize and explore collaborations. From the lessons and reflections of the early pioneers, to ways to navigate the DAO ecosystem, and the proof-of-concept for funding research and science - it was clear that this is one of the most exciting use cases for positive impact from crypto.
DeSci Berlin took place over two days (May 24 and 25, 2022) at CODE Berlin, where we gathered scientists, developers, investors and enthusiasts to meet each other and explore how to grow this community.
The event kicked off with a welcome by Paul Kohlhaas, CEO and co-founder of Molecule to give a brief recap in the current Decentralized Science Ecosystem and the fresh official announcement of closing Molecule’s 13 million seed round. This set the stage to explore the potential and future of decentralized science and biotech.
Doing highlights is difficult when there is a program with so many great speakers, sessions and conversations to learn from: Jack Scanell, Puja Ohlhaver, Rafa the Builder, Sebastian Brunemeier, Sarah Hamburg, Karola Kirsanow, Niklas Rindtorff, to name a few.
One crucial highlight was meeting the community. So many of these relationships were forged during the pandemic, via discord or video calls.
There is a magic to connect with like-minded online friends, colleagues, and people in person. To share and discuss ideas of how we want to make this space a success and serve its purpose. Which is why having these in-person gatherings is crucial to make our globally spanning, decentralized networks a success.
Sebastian is a prolific figure in the field of longevity biotech. Co-founder of multiple startups, former principal at Apollo Health Ventures, his page of “what I have done” is the who is who of academia, research institutes, biotech, and investment. No surprise he is also working both with Molecule and VitaDAO. But his biggest unexplored talent might be as Meme Chief Officer for longevity. Who knew a presentation on Biomedical Research & Venture Capital. (Insert video link) could be so entertaining and funny.
With great analogies and some impersonations, this presentation might as well become a scientific standup hour.
There are an increasing number of articles that talk about why DeSci has the potential to change so many of the current paradigms in scientific research funding and publishing. (Some of which you can find in Molecule’s blog). However if you want to be thoroughly moved and clearly understand how and why we need IP-NFTS, watch this presentation.
Sönke Bartling is a well-known name at the intersection of blockchain and science, having birthed the Blockchain for Sciences conference in 2017. He is well known to the researchers and crypto enthusiasts who have been trying to figure out how to improve science and access with these new technologies. As the man who years ago was trying to get people together to explore how to make open science happen she was the ideal person to end the calendar of DeSci.Berlin. Part retrospect, part “what we got wrong”, it ended up being a great call to action on how to build on from past mistakes.
It is a testament to being able to explore novel ideas with your community having Puja Ohlhaver lead a workshop on Decentralized Society ideas in the context of Decentralized Science! She recently co-authored a paper together with Glen Weyl and Vitalik Buterin called “Decentralized Society: Finding Web3’s Soul”.
DeSoc (Decentralized Society) points away from web’s current hyper-financialized state towards a “more transformative, pluralist future of increasing returns across social distance”.
Calling for a new enlightened way to navigate property rights and governance mechanisms for more plural networks. It was quite interesting seeing people discussing the importance of this new concept on Twitter while at DeSci Berlin the discussion was happening in real time.
Web3, crypto, scientific research; are still characterized as male dominated fields however the number of panels and speakers reflected the participants in this conference. Having Puja as a speaker felt like an important moment in highlighting her thought leadership. Good things come from curation that includes diverse participation.
Jesse Hudson, Jose Pinto, Savva Kerdemelidis - Navigating the Challenges in DeSci
DAOs, web3, DeSci, property rights, legal rights, it is all still early days in having all of these defined. It is not surprising that that workshop with lawyers working in this emerging field generated so many questions.
The running theme for this workshop was “This is not legal advice”, because reporting on some of the ways these new entities are navigating regulation and setting up ways to fall within regulation is a work-in-progress.
It is also important to highlight that all of this is being taken very seriously by everyone as there are venture funds and institutional investors that still need to have certain parameters in place to feel comfortable investing in this ecosystem.
A take away was to seek proper legal advice, and get in-house counsel as soon as you possibly can. No workshop can provide the complete picture to any one particular jurisdiction and scenario.
Legal will become an important part of the DeSci ecosystem, especially when the legal teams are as enthusiastic about this emerging field as the community. More importantly it will be crucial to report the different ways legal teams are navigating the field. Note that it helps when you have an eloquent team lead the panel. (Alas, we wish we could share the workshop, but our legal department says legally we should not.)
IP NFT - is owning equity in a research project.
Yes, that was a lot of names and a big title.
However this panel that turned into an interactive workshop was one of the most interesting in clarifying funding models, new grant funding systems, direct micro-grants, and mechanisms of decentralized science prizes.
VitaDAO, the collective funding longevity research, just turned one year old this June 18th and it served as the best clear proof-of-concept for the utilization of all these tools. The DAO has the metrics to show that a community powered by researchers, scientists, developers, and enthusiasts can accomplish a lot with different incentives in place.
There was also a great level of transparency on the challenges at hand such as “how can IP become more open, transactable and liquid” - the way IP works right now makes this difficult.
And working in clarifying the communication and jargon. Tyler Gelato pointed out that one of the biggest challenges in the field is explaining the tools.
An IP-NFT can be explained as “Owning equity on a research project”
Vincent Weisser also reminded us that there are multitudes of ways to fund Public Goods, and though this talk talk and workshop was one of the first ones of DeSci Berlin it should also be the one that most of us will keep in mind of why we are involved. A raison d’être.
Decentralized Science is one of the best use cases for web3 as it looks to power drug discovery, rare disease research, carbon capture, renewables, and new technologies. All of these can create a net positive impact.
DeSci is a game changer not just for how to create new collectives, use blockchain, access capital, and change incentives, but for a benefit to society in general.
A big thank you and massive appreciation for all the people that helped make this amazing conference possible!
Seeing everyone in person and getting to share ideas in person is going to be a way to move forward as we grow.
Follow the author @lauraminquini, longevity advocate and entrepreneur and DeSci Berlin’s MC.