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BLOK BioScience is an emerging bioscience company that provides technology and supply chain expertise to help businesses and governments operate as safely as possible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The company provides an end-to-end on-site testing and digital pass platform to help ensure that COVID-19 is better controlled in workplaces and schools.
BLOK BioScience has two key products: BLOK Pass and COVID-19 Tests. The first product aims to be a health passport that allows employees and customers to record and prove their health status without sharing personal information. And in terms of COVID-19 Tests, BLOK BioScience offers a variety of options (rapid antigen tests, rapid antibody tests, etc.). The company aims to provide tests that are suitable for all types of organizations.
Alex Tai is the CEO of BLOK BioScience. In the past, he was the Director of Special Projects at Virgin Group and COO of Virgin Galactic. These experiences have given him unique insight into creating strong teams to develop innovative technological products. With these insights in mind, he helped found BLOK Solutions around two years ago.
Identity Review sat down with Alex Tai to better understand how BLOK BioScience was formed and how the company has pivoted with the emergence of COVID-19.
Alex Tai’s journey to becoming CEO of BLOK BioScience has included everything from being a pilot to leading operations at Virgin Galactic.
His passion for flying has been a driving force throughout his life. In our interview, he stated that “Once you’re a pilot, you never stop being a pilot.” He reiterated this passion when he mentioned flying as an answer to what his greatest success in his career thus far was: “On an individual basis, if I were to be really selfish… personally I love flying.”
This passion for flight eventually brought Tai outside of the limitations of planet earth. Shortly after being a pilot in the Royal Air Force, he became the Chief Operating Officer of Virgin Galactic, an American spaceflight company. There, he learned a multitude of lessons, one of which included learning to take the “easiest, simplest path.”
Eventually, Tai pivoted toward artificial intelligence and blockchain technology, becoming the CEO of 55 Foundry. It was his position at 55 Foundry that brought him in close contact with the people and technologies that would help him build BLOK BioScience.
Tai described his time at 55 Foundry as frustrating: “There were two fundamental parts we kept running up against. The first of that was a stable coin. We needed a stable coin to be able to pass value on any of these products or systems we were giving to people. The second, and probably more difficult, was an identity solution… to identify who we should be providing services to, how we connect those digital wallets and how we treat personal identifiable information that we might want to collect, or even better not collect.”
Previously, Tai had the opportunity to represent 55Foundry at the World Economic Forum. It was this experience that inspired his ideas for a company focused on health passes. There, he had the opportunity to meet the director of ID2020, Dakota Gruener, who informed Tai about the search for a replacement for the yellow fever card.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this need became an enticing market opportunity. At this point in his career, Tai had left 55Foundry and started BLOK Solutions. He and his team found a solution to the coin problem 55 Foundry faced in Libra, a coin developed by Facebook—a company Tai referred to as “a bad identity perpetrator.” Benefitting from this realization, BLOK Solutions was just starting to take off.
With the start of the pandemic, however, Tai realized that BLOK Solutions needed to pivot, and thus BLOK BioScience was born.
“So COVID came along and there was a requirement for people to understand whether they had COVID and in order to travel abroad, they needed to have a test to know whether to quarantine,” said Tai. “So we went about it thinking that there’s lots of people that require an identity solution, and we thought that we should go ahead and build a solution built on the principles of ID2020. So we did that.”
BLOK Bioscience’s goal soon became directed at creating an “immunity passport solution.” Tai and his team noticed that the track and trace systems many countries tried to put out failed because they were centralized, meaning there were privacy concerns. So they created a decentralized privacy protected system: BLOK Pass.
Tai explained what made BLOK BioScience’s technology so special: “There is a difference between won’t and can’t when you’re talking about holding data. The only way to be risk free is to not hold the data.”
When asked about the future of the company, Tai responded with a positive outlook: “The thing that I believe is very important about decentralized privacy protected systems that don’t act like a big brother is that they will gain adoption because citizens of the earth should not be scared. It’s a tool to prove your identity and it’s yours.”
The organization sees the need for health passports becoming a universal necessity for the foreseeable future, making BLOK BioScience one of the many that hope to fulfill it.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Sarah Raza is a Tech Innovation Fellow with a background in computer science from Stanford. She is passionate about exploring the implications of increased usage of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Contact Sarah Raza at email@example.com.
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