Counterfeit Medicine Detection Using Artificial Intelligence

Published May-02-19

A drug checking technology that uses a proprietary AI platform to help reduce branded drug counterfeiting.

RxAll, Nigeria

The Story:

Counterfeit Medicine Detection Using Artificial Intelligence Open innovation competitions provide valuable opportunities for start-ups to create awareness of their ideas, perfect their sales pitches, network with investors and other parties, win prize money and enter incubation and accelerator programs. Meanwhile, organizers are introduced to potentially disruptive innovations that they might not otherwise have come into contact with and that solve their challenges.

Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge

The Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge is an open innovation contest that aims to empower promising scientific and technological startups that are devoted to 'solve the world’s major industrial and societal challenges'.

The 2018/19 edition of the competition encompassed 12 tracks or genres including industry 4.0, aeronautics, digital health, new materials and global health.

Approximately 4,500 applications from 119 countries were received, and these were whittled down to 500 by the panel of judges who assessed them on the quality of their online applications. The top 500 were then invited to take part in an investor day to connect with venture capitalists and corporate venture capitalists.

“The variety of startup applications we received this year demonstrates that deep tech innovation can come from anywhere in the world, and that it can provide solutions to many of the major challenges facing our society today,” said co-founder and co-Managing Director of Hello Tomorrow. “At Hello Tomorrow, we are working to ensure that these startups have the right conditions to create large scale impact.”

From the 500 the judges selected around 80 startups to pitch to a judging committee made up of investors, corporates, scientists and other experts in their field. They chose the main winner and a winner for each genre.

Combatting Counterfeit Medicines

The overall winner was a Nigerian startup called RxAll for their portable drug authenticator that determines the authenticity of medications. It is a potentially powerful tool in the fight against the counterfeit drug market which is a multibillion-dollar industry that puts lives at risk. RxAll allows anyone to test the quality of a drug by using a portable nanoscanner and mobile app.

The proprietary machine learning algorithm reads the scan from the scanner, identifies the drug, assesses its quality and lets the user know whether the drug is real or counterfeit, in about 20 seconds. RxAll received a check for €100,000 (approx. USD $113,000).

The problem of counterfeit medicine is one that RxAll co-founder Adebayo Alonge has been wanting to solve for years. More than 15 years ago when he was a student in Nigeria, he suffered a severe asthma attack and should’ve been given Ventolin to help him breathe. Instead, the hospital gave him a counterfeit drug which put him in a coma for three weeks.

His dream of tackling the counterfeit medication problem that nearly ended his life is starting to take shape. To date, his company has partnerships with the food and drug administration agencies of several countries in Africa, as well as 200 pharmacies across Nigeria and Kenya.

Other Winners

Among the other winners of the Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge were:

Coreshell Technologies (USA) won the Energy Prize for their novel thin-film coatings that improve the energy density, safety and cost of the storage of lithium-ion batteries.

Fauna Photonics (Denmark) received the Food, Agriculture and Environment Prize for an intelligent sensor technology that maps insects which helps farms to increase their yields while reducing their reliance on chemicals.

Atomos (USA) picked up the New Space Prize for the spacecraft it’s building that will move satellites between orbits and other destinations using efficient electric propulsion.

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