For many decades, the challenge of counterfeit and substandard medicines has been a major public health concern in Africa. Reports from the World Health Organisation show that over 10 per cent of drugs sold on the continent are either fake or substandard. In Nigeria, data from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control reveals that the agency destroyed counterfeit drugs worth over $13 million in 2018 alone. The good news however is that this longstanding problem may soon become history, with the invention of the world’s first drug authenticator by Adebayo Alonge, CEO and co-founder of RxAll Inc. – a Canadian based deepTech Start-up firm.
Alonge is a multi-award winning entrepreneur and renowned global pioneer of in-situ drug authentication system – RxAllTM. This revolutionary drug authenticator uses a mobile app connected to a cloud base Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm, linked with a database containing spectral signatures of medicines and a handheld nanoscanner (RxScanner) to test the quality of drugs in less than a minute. This enables regulators, narcotics control agencies, pharma manufacturers and hospitals to track and ensure that all drugs sold are of the highest quality.
This groundbreaking innovation has received global attention and Alonge is at the centre of it all. He recently emerged winner of the 2019 BNP Paribbas Group deepTech Awards, also known as “Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge”, where he beat 4,500 contenders from 119 countries around the world and walked away with the Grand Prize of €100,000.
Quite remarkably, prior to his unprecedented feat, Adebayo had led RxAll Inc. to achieve a multi-million dollar valuation in two years and ramped up seven-figure sales orders in its first year. He also led its market entry into East Africa (Kenya and Uganda), West Africa (Nigeria and Ghana), South-east Asia (Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore), and the Americas (Canada, USA and Columbia). He also led RxAll to win the 2018 Katapult FutureFest’s Global start-up award in Oslo, Norway, and the 2018 CIO Review Most Promising PharmaTech Vendor Award.
Education and career
Alonge had his secondary school education at Kings College, Lagos, from 1996-2002. He gained admission to the University of Ibadan, in 2002 to study Pharmacy, where he graduated with distinction in 2008. Adebayo began his career in November 2009 as a medical representative at Sanofi Aventis, where he worked till September 2010. During this period, he also worked as a contract pharmacist for the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative. He then moved on to work for Roche (Now Swiss Pharma Nigeria) as a medical sales representative from 2010 to 2012.
Alonge’s passion and drive for business innovation led him to enrol for the MBA degree (with focus on Strategy and Finance) at the Lagos Business School (LBS) in October 2012. He graduated in July 2014 with distinction. While studying at LBS, he work at BASF as a market development intern (Pharma Ingredients) and later returned to BASF after the completion of his MBA programme in August 2014 to take up the position of market developer (West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo). He was there till August 2015, about which time he gained admission to Yale School of Management, Yale University, USA, for his Master of Advanced Management degree programme.
While at Yale, Alonge worked as a consultant for Boston Consulting Group (BCG) (2015-2017) where he pioneered the first BCG office in Sub-Sahara Africa in Lagos, Nigeria. At the completion of his programme, Alonge proceeded to Hitotsubashi Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy for a course in Advanced Management and International Business.
Alonge is currently undertaking a Master of Public Administration (deepTech in Public Policy Concentration) from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA.
In 2016, Adebayo co-founded RxAll Inc., with the aim of providing a means for patients in the developing world to authenticate their medicines. His career in pharma is driven by a passion to eliminate fake drugs as he almost died as a child from a counterfeit medicine.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was right when he said, “The heights that great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight but they while their mates were asleep were upwards toiling into the night”. Indeed, Alonge’s path to prominence wasn’t quite rosy all the way. His firm RxAll, like many start-ups, also experienced its own early challenges when it ran out of cash in the first quarter of 2017, leading more than 75 per cent of the early team members to resign. This almost ended RxAll start-up journey very early in Nigeria.
However, Alonge’s training and experience working for top multinational firms in Nigeria, together with the resilience of the remaining members of his team, enabled him to raise about $400,000 in grants and bootstrapped funds from the Nigerian government, the Yale start-up ecosystem, Merck, Villgro and other support networks.
In September 2017, Alonge enrolled for the G-Startup Worldwide programme in Indonesia where he was among the Top 15 most innovative start-ups worldwide and ultimately emerging a finalist of the 2017 G-Startup Worldwide competition.
Competing and excelling among top science innovators from all over the world would come as a surprise to many, especially for someone like Alonge, who had most of his science education in Nigeria, a developing country battling with an ailing educational system. However, Alonge’s success and achievements show that local talents in Nigeria and indeed Africa, can match their counterparts from the developed world when supported with the right resources and opportunities.
Awards and recognitions
Alonge has received many awards and recognitions. He is a recipient of the prestigious Global Social Venture Award (2016) from InnovateHealth, Yale; Young Innovator – YouWin; 2018 China Award for Best DeepTech Platform in World; Regional finalist, Hult Prize Global Case Competition; and recipient of Adekunle Ajasin Award for Academic Excellence in 2008.
In addition, he is a recipient of the Mandela Washington Fellowship from the US State Department for outstanding contributions to business and entrepreneurship in Africa in 2014. He has also received awards in person from Barack Obama (ex-US president) and Justin Trudeau (prime minister of Canada).