Not everything that is written on packaging is reflective of what is actually inside - this can be an especially devastating issue when it comes to medicine. A young startup from New York is now working to improve the quality of medications throughout the supply chain through a combination of hardware and software that can detect whether a medicine is counterfeit or not. Get to know the founders’ personal story and what their technology is about. Founded your own startup in the fields of Healthcare, Life Science or Performance Materials? Apply now for Merck Accelerator.
The startup fighting counterfeit and substandard medicine is calledVeripad. Bishoy Ghobryal, from Egypt, and Da Wi Shin, who grew up in China, came up with the idea for their business because both of them have been personally impacted by counterfeit and substandard medicine. After their studies in biomedical engineering, they started working to fulfill their vision of a world where everyone has access to quality medications. Together, Bishoy and Da Wi, along with their partners Y-Lan Nguyen and Jason Ki, are trying to solve the problem at its roots and empower patients to take greater control of their medical experience.
Using a low-cost paper called a PAD (paper analytic device) together with a mobile app, the widespread health issue of counterfeit and substandard medicine can be solved little by little. The startupVeripad has developed a technology to help find out if the medicine anywhere along the supply chain lives up to its billings. The user only needs a small sample of their medicine to do this test. They break the substance into small pieces and put it on the PAD. Shortly after, a chemical reaction will cause a pattern to appear, and the user then takes a picture of it with theVeripad mobile app. The mobile app processes the information and then is able to tell the user whether the pill was genuine or counterfeit.
With this technology, a big health issue in Africa, as well as the rest of the world might, is on its way to being solved. The fraudulent medical products are often produced in dubious workshops, not at the original manufacturers. Instead of being made of the life-saving active substances, they consist of cornstarch, powder or can even be made of a cocktail of toxic chemicals. Apart from the loss of confidence in medicine and healthcare providers, the consequences for affected patients can be devastating: In Niger, for example, 2,500 people died of meningitis after they ingested counterfeit medicine. It is not only developing countries that are struggling with this issue, but also wealthier nations. According to information from the WHO, many medical products bought on the internet are also fake. In Europe, “lifestyle” medications like hormones and steroids are often found to be fraudulent.
The startup is planning to sell their products to NGO’s, governmental organizations, pharmaceutical companies or pharmacies. This technology can help these institutions more easily identify counterfeit content, allowing them to initiate proceedings against the fraudulent sellers or at least help to end their business relations with them.
At the moment the team is further developing their prototypes, but the app and the PAD are already functional.Veripad recently joined the Merck Accelerator, and is taking part in their program in Nairobi, Kenya.
About the Merck Accelerator
The Merck Accelerator programs in Darmstadt and Nairobi support young companies in their seed-phase with a focus on the fields of healthcare, life science and performance materials. For the program in Nairobi there is a special focus on projects in the field of digital health. The first step is the selection of digital business models, from the above fields, into the program. The chosen firms for the program in Darmstadt receive office space at the Merck Innovation Center. Those in Nairobi have the opportunity to use office spaces at Metta. Besides workspaces, both programs receive mentoring and coaching, on a regular basis, from a pool consisting of more than 50,000 experts from 66 countries. Furthermore, the teams get financial support of up to € 50,000. At the end of the program, the startups that have a globally minded business or global issue focus have the chance to be selected to further develop their business idea in Silicon Valley.