The Silicon Review
The pharmaceutical industry is an extremely important one with global outreach. The entire industry spends billions of dollars every year in research and development of new drugs. Various epidemics and life-threatening diseases have been cured and eradicated thanks to the efforts of Pharmaceutical experts. However, certain illicit operations undermine the efforts of pharmacists and carry out the distribution of counterfeit drugs and make millions in the process, affecting the lives of numerous people and endangering public health. Third world countries in Africa, South America, and South East Asia are the worst affected by this horrible crime. However, a company named RxAll aims to tackle this menace and ensure safe and authentic medication for everyone.
Established in Africa, RxAll leverages artificial intelligence to scan drugs and determine which ones are genuine and which ones are not. The company envisioned technology as a long-term solution for the continent’s dearth of qualified and experienced doctors.
In conversation with the Co-founder visionaries behind RxAll, Adebayo Alonge and Amy Kao
Q. What was the motivation for starting RxAll?
Africa suffers from an epidemic of fake drugs making their way into mainstream pharmacies. Alonge had a life-changing experience when he was a teenager. He was administered fake drugs for illness in Africa and went into a coma for 21 days. It was a close shave and he almost lost his life. However, it was then that he knew what he wanted to do. He got into pharmaceuticals and later went to Yale to study for an MBA and learn how to build a business. At Yale, he met Kao – a pharmaceutical strategy expert – and together, they launched their own venture to help reduce the impact of counterfeit drugs.
Q. Can you please elaborate on your company’s offerings?
A staggering 1 million people lose their lives each year due to the menace of fake drugs. Co-founder Amy Kao had considerable experience in the pharmaceutical sector and knew all about securing funding for the venture. RxAll started off as a wholesale distributor of authentic drugs, sort of like an e-commerce website for medicines. However, the team was not contented by with this model of business, in light of their vision to fight the plague of counterfeit drugs all over Africa. Although RxAll was doing its bit to ensure that people had access to safe and secure medication, it seemed like a temporary solution to a much larger problem.
In their struggle to find a more holistic answer to this problem, the RxAll team brought on board additional team members to develop the relevant technology. They met with Wei Liu, a fellow student at Yale studying the intersection of artificial intelligence and molecular spectroscopy. Liu also happened to have a Ph.D. in molecular spectroscopy and became RxAll’s CTO and ultimately, the brains behind their technology. After initial trials, the team developed the spectrometer along with an artificial intelligence platform powered by machine learning and deep learning algorithms to understand the chemical compositions of drugs in real time. The business model has evolved over time and continues to give shape to RxAll’s original commitment to ensuring safe and quality medicine for everyone.
Q. How have you expanded your company’s offerings?
RxAll does have many strategic partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, government agencies, NGOs, and regulatory agencies around the globe. They also have partnerships with contacts in their network of Pharma companies in Jakarta, in Myanmar, Uganda and Africa, Europe and Asia. In addition to this, RxAll also has established offices in Kenya, Nigeria, Toronto, and the USA and sales representatives in Norway, Uganda, Ghana, and Myanmar.
RxAll is result-oriented and their services speak for the results themselves. It is through their technology and products that they demonstrate their commitment to their long-term goal and earn the trust of their customers. Another concern for the company is that their targeted market is marginalized to people in third world countries who cannot afford quality medication. So, the team is looking to follow a B2B business model, as opposed to B2C, wherein they will be working with pharmaceutical companies and hospitals who can use their technology and push it to the network of pharmacies they work with.
In this way, RxAll can stay true to their path and keep the prices down for the end customer.
Q. What were the initial challenges that you faced?
RxAll faced several challenges like any startup. The first one was convincing investors and interested parties that their product actually worked. They needed to demonstrate the gravity of the problem that they were trying to solve. The next step was convincing the right people that their technology was viable since the medical field demands meticulous inspection. They published their developments in major scientific journals and even had to demonstrate the proof of concept to investors. This was extremely important because they were dealing with people’s lives and lives literally depended upon accurate technology working perfectly. Kao expresses, “I believe the lessons learned when starting out and the experiences hence have really helped us put our best foot forward and made us stronger as individuals and as a company moving forward.”
Q. What are the factors that have helped your company establish its current position in the market?
As of now, it’s completely the technology and their artificial intelligence platform, which makes RxAll the best out there. They’re also lower cost, which is the big differentiating factor. The spectrometer is the only device that identifies the chemical composition of medicine through a mobile phone.
RxAll does not plan to launch a new product in the near future; instead, the team wants to focus on expanding the technology they have to newer markets. Co-founder Kao and Liu have travelled to across Southeast Asia to present their technology and most recently showcased their product at the Guang Zhou International Innovation Festival.
Meet the Visionaries behind RxAll
Adebayo Alonge, Co-founder, and CEO: Adebayo is a pharmacist and market development professional with a business degree from Yale. He has 8+years in market development and strategy consulting across Africa working with BCG, BASF, Roche, and Sanofi.
Amy Kao, Co-founder, CMO: Amy is a graduate of the Yale School of Management MBA program and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Carnegie Mellon University. She has +5 years of strategic management consulting experience with global pharmaceutical companies in New York and Asia and has a strong focus on go-to-market strategy in emerging markets.
Wei Liu, Co-founder, CTO: Wei is a PhD. in Biophysical Chemistry at Yale with technical expertise in interface/surface chemistry and analytical spectroscopy. He has tremendous experience building molecular sensor algorithms and developing big data platforms for research based on spectroscopy.