Temie Giwa-Tubosun founded the startup back in 2016 and joined the sixth round of the Accelerator earlier this year. Since then, LifeBank has continued to grow and succeed: with 1626 lives already saved through the use of its app, LifeBank has been working closely with Merck, and at the end of their acceleration period, launched the SmartBag Tag - a blockchain-powered product, that records the safety records of blood and blood products.
Technology that Saves Lives
LifeBank’s services address supply and logistic issues in the healthcare sector - a pressing issue, mostly in developing countries, is the gaps in the medical supply chains that prevent life-saving medication from reaching patients, endangering the lives of individuals and communities. Fragmented infrastructure and lack of distribution platforms are to blame: many developing countries need better roads and other means of transportation to ensure a reliable medical supply chain.
One of their products is an app that determines which medication is available where and enables delivery for pick-up. For both patients and suppliers, such as hospitals and pharmacies, this means saving valuable time in gaining access to essential and life-saving medical products. As LifeBank’s CEO and Founder Temie Giwa-Tubosun explains, it is mainly the use of technology that enables them to make such significant differences in the medical infrastructure of developing countries: “Without technology, we would not be able to quickly collect and process inventory information. The existence of LifeBank’s donor app means we can mobilize our 5,000-people strong voluntary donor community to attend a blood drive or donate blood in emergencies.”
A New Product in Collaboration with Merck
Since joining the Accelerator, LifeBank has worked in close collaboration with Merck to advance with their latest product: the SmartBag Tag. This new addition to LifeBank’s range of services uses blockchain technology to record information about the processes involved in blood supply. As Giwa-Tuboson puts it: "At LifeBank, we know that improving the safety of essential medical products in Africa is so important. When crypto-currencies broke into the mainstream, we became excited about the technology behind the product and its possible applications in healthcare. Our idea was to use blockchain’s distributed ledger technology to track products to ensure the safety of blood and even medicine, and came up with our new product - SmartBag.’’
Simply by scanning the SmartBag, hospitals can access details relating to the donation, collection, screening, storage, and delivery procedures involved in the blood and blood components transfused into their patients. This high-tech system has been adapted to suit the Nigerian landscape through its combination with low tech solutions such as feature phones. For healthcare providers without access to smartphones, computers or the internet, this means that information is accessible on simple feature phones through USSD short codes. Giwa-Tubosun is excited about the new possibilities Merck has created for LifeBank’s SmartBag: ‘’Merck's Global Accelerator Program, especially its product development classes, has provided us with the guidance, insights and resources we needed to improve SmartBag. These sessions also helped us develop a go-to-market strategy that has been instrumental in pitching our product to prospective partners and clients."
LifeBank Looking to the Future
Having already used their app to serve 380 hospitals and save 1626 lives, launching the new SmartBag product means LifeBank can offer even more services to patients across Nigeria. The new product could be especially useful in the fight against HIV, as Nigeria is home to 9% of the global population living with HIV and has the second largest HIV disease burden in the world, with 3.2 million infected people. Between 5-15% of new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa can be attributed to unsafe blood transfusions. LifeBank’s founder, Giwa-Tubosun explains how the SmartBag Tag can help: “We believe ensuring transparency around the processes involved in the supply of blood will lead to accountability, and will prompt blood banks to use more rigorous testing techniques such as enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) over rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs). The resulting increase in blood safety standards will reduce the rate of new HIV infections caused by blood transfusion.”Thanks to this #BigBangMoment, the Accelerator startup is now a step closer towards improving access to safe health supplies and achieving its mission to save millions of lives. We at Merck are very pleased to keep supporting LifeBank throughout its further development stages and can’t wait to see its impact on healthcare in Nigeria.
Joining the Merck Accelerator 2019
We love to help promising startups like LifeBank launch additional products - yours could be the next team we support! Do you think your startup could benefit from up to €50,000 of funding, office and creation space at our headquarters in Darmstadt, and access to advice from a global network of over 50,000 Merck experts? Then why not apply to join the Merck Accelerator? The seventh round of the Merck Accelerator Program starts in January 2019 and applications are open from July 2 to September 30, 2018. If you’re a startup operating in healthcare, life science, performance materials, and additional search fields then we can’t wait to hear from you!