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What's Happening In Web3?

3 Top Stories From Web3 This Month

  1. What Apple's Vision Pro Headset Means for Web3

  2. Martin Shkreli Is Back With a Web3 Drug Discovery Platform

  3. SEC Who? Andreessen Horowitz Finds True Love With UK's Embrace Of Blockchain Brilliance

What Apple's Vision Pro Headset Means for Web3

Apple announced details of its Vision Pro mixed-reality headset on Monday, but could that revolutionize Web3 and the future of the metaverse? CoinDesk Executive Director of Global Content Emily Parker weighs in.

Find out more here.


Martin Shkreli Is Back With a Web3 Drug Discovery Platform

An image of Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli - Getty Images

MARTIN SHKRELI—THE NOTORIOUS ex-pharmaceutical executive fresh from prison after his 2017 fraud conviction—announced his latest, eyebrow-raising venture this week: the creation of a blockchain-basedWeb3 drug discovery platform that traffics in his own cryptocurrency, MSI, aka Martin Shkreli Inu.

The platform, still in the early development phase, is called Druglike, according to a press release that circulated on July 25. Its goals are ostensibly lofty, but the details are extremely sketchy, and Shkreli’s intentions have already drawn skepticism. It’s also unclear whether the enterprise will run Shkreli afoul of his lifetime ban from the pharmaceutical industry, which stemmed from the abrupt and callous 4,000 percent price hike of a life-saving drug that made him infamous.

Druglike will remove barriers to early-stage drug discovery, increase innovation and allow a broader group of contributors to share the rewards

Shkreli, who is named as a cofounder of Druglike, says the platform aims to make early-stage drug discovery more affordable and accessible. “Druglike will remove barriers to early-stage drug discovery, increase innovation and allow a broader group of contributors to share the rewards,” Shkreli said in the press release. “Underserved and underfunded communities, such as those focused on rare diseases or in developing markets, will also benefit from access to these tools.”

Generally, early-stage drug development can sometimes involve virtual screens to identify potential drug candidates. In these cases, pharmaceutical scientists first identify a “target”—a specific compound or protein that plays a critical role in developing a disease or condition. Then researchers look for compounds or small molecules that could interfere with that target, sometimes binding or “docking” directly to the target in a way that keeps it from functioning. This can be done in physical labs using massive libraries of compounds in high-throughput chemical screens. But it can also be done virtually, using specialized software and a lot of computing power, which can be resource-intensive.

Concepts and Questions

That’s where Shkreli’s Druglike is imagined to come in. In a white paper posted on Druglike’s website, Shkreli-associated Jason Sommer lays out some concepts for how the company’s platform would work. Essentially, it would use a decentralized computing network of task providers, solvers, and validators that would run and optimize the virtual screening of drug candidates. The white paper draws similarities to FoldIt, an online puzzle game that essentially uses distributed computing and crowdsourcing to fold proteins and predict their structures.

But Druglike’s platform is touted as incorporating blockchain concepts and cryptocurrency transactions when users complete tasks, such as docking screens. For instance, the paper describes a “proof-of-optimization” concept as a “novel” blockchain-based verification step for screening work, similar to Bitcoin’s “proof-of-work” method.

“We propose a blockchain-based implementation of Proof-of-Optimization, where a distributed ledger stores records of which proof solutions belong to which Solvers. Smart contracts allow secure distribution of rewards to the Solver who owns the verified proof,” Sommer writes in the paper.

But, for now, the white paper only loosely describes these concepts, and it’s unclear how the cryptocurrency transactions will generate value. It’s also unclear how the project will be funded, though an online exchange suggested that the company could look for venture capital financing.

On Twitter, where Shkreli has been banned, he currently has an account as Enrique Hernandez @zkEnrique7. From there, Shkreli announced the company on July 25 and hosted a conversation regarding the project.

In that conversation, he scoffed at the idea that the platform would breach his lifetime ban from the pharmaceutical industry, saying that the project only involves developing software, not drugs. “Writing some code in Github and pressing ‘go’ does not make you a pharmaceutical company,” he said.


SEC Who? Andreessen Horowitz Finds True Love With UK's Embrace Of Blockchain Brilliance

  • Andreessen Horowitz is opening a London office, which should serve as a major boost for the UK crypto industry.

  • The firm backs several blockchain companies, including Arweave, Aztec, Improbable and Gensyn.

Amid the U.S. Securities and Exchange's crackdown on the crypto industry, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) intends to expand its horizons to the U.K.

The San Francisco-based firm commends the country for what it considers an innovative approach to cryptocurrency and blockchain regulation.

“The UK government sees the promise of web3,” with a keen interest in establishing the country as a hub for web3 innovation, Andreesen managing partner Chris Dixon said.

The UK’s policy framework is uniquely tailored to blockchain and digital asset regulation, reflecting a forward-looking stance by focusing on an outcomes-based approach while upholding consumer protection.

Dixon lauded the UK’s willingness to work with the industry to recognize the distinct traits of blockchain technology.

An image of Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz
Marc Andreessen - The New Yorker

“The UK also has deep pools of talent, world-leading academic institutions, and a strong entrepreneurial culture,” Dixon added.

Blockchains could cultivate services that are akin to existing digital services, Dixon explained, citing how they empower users, provide seamless commerce with lower transaction fees, and pave the way for innovative media and AI services.

"We are in the early innings of crypto," Dixon noted. Regarding the rapid growth of crypto developers, the number will reach one million by 2030, he predicts.

First International Office

Slated to open later this year, the Andreessen Horowitz London office will be spearheaded by General Partner Sriram Krishnan.

The team will focus on bolstering the crypto and startup ecosystem throughout the UK and Europe.

"We’ve invested in a number of UK-based crypto companies including Arweave, Aztec, and Improbable. And we are excited to announce our newest investment in UK-based Gensyn,” Dixon said.

Gensyn, founded by Ben Fielding and Harry Grieve, is working on a decentralized computing protocol to enable developers to create state-of-the-art AI systems.

Additionally, Andreessen Horowitz is set to host its next Crypto Startup School in London in the spring of 2024.

The firm anticipates attracting a diverse range of teams from the UK, Europe, and beyond, eager to develop web3 projects.

Support From UK Leadership

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated, “As we cement the UK’s place as a science and tech superpower, we must embrace new innovations like Web3, powered by blockchain technology, which will enable startups to flourish here and grow the economy.”

“That’s why I am thrilled world-leading investor, Andreessen Horowitz, has decided to open their first international office in the UK — which is testament to our world-class universities and talent and our strong competitive business environment," he added.

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