A DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization is a collectively owned, blockchain-governed organization. They can be used to manage a variety of organizations, but now a growing number are specifically focused on the healthcare sector. Could the future of healthcare be decentralized?

One DAO is leveraging Web3 technology to accelerate longevity research. Recognizing that age-related diseases strain healthcare resources, VitaDAO is centered on healthy life extension studies. Longevity is often promoted as a luxury that’s accessible only to the wealthiest in society, triggering thoughts of Silicon Valley billionaires’ intent on cheating death, but VitaDAO endeavors to stop income inequality from determining age-related diseases. The DAO is an accessible cooperative that anyone can join, working to guarantee that the future of longevity therapeutics is open to all.

A human-centered approach is fundamental to the new wave of healthcare DAOs. Vibe Bio distinguishes its organization from large profit-driven pharmaceutical companies by focusing on people over profits. The DAO empowers patients with rare and neglected diseases to go in search of their cure via community-governed research that discovers, funds, and tests promising treatments.

This approach expands the possibilities of treatment innovation, as Vibe Bio Co-founder Josh Forman tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence: “Too often the best science and medicines never receive funding. Not because the science is bad, but because traditional systems optimize for different metrics—for example, prestige in academia, the lowest financial risk in biotech and influence in government. DAOs and decentralized science (DeSci) aim to empower researcher and patient communities to develop medicines and technologies that are potentially life-saving based on impact.”

Patients and research scientists are also collaboratively leveraging shared resources to promote alternative medicines. After making waves in the tech industry, US entrepreneur Ryan Breslow founded Love in late 2022 in pursuit of “people-powered pharma.” Breslow’s Love DAO will initially focus studies on the potential of breathwork, meditation, and plant medicine within healthcare. Elsewhere, DAOs are propelling research for alternative medicines that have traditionally been viewed as taboo, like PsyDAO, which is fostering a scientific understanding of psychedelics to make the case for legalization.

The healthcare industry is hampered by overly cumbersome processes that mean it can take years to implement changes. These problems will not be solved using traditional approaches, so driving science forward will require innovative organizational structures. “DAOs offer a new institutional model with several benefits to stakeholders,” Forman tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. “Most prominently, DAOs are radically transparent and align both incentives and impact more directly than traditional institutions. The DAO’s mission and operating manual are voted upon as a group, initiatives are agreed upon and performed in the open, with results recorded indelibly.”

Healthcare DAOs are creating more efficient organizational systems, offering the potential for better results for all, and most importantly transforming how patients heal. However, as healthcare DAOs are still in the early stages of development, it will likely take some time before their potential can be fully realized.

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