From a dorm room in Dartmouth to solving a huge problem in Indian healthcare: PharmaSecure
Nathan Sigworth was studying physics in 2004 and during the course of his studies came to Uttar Pradesh as a volunteer for a project. He worked in the area of healthcare during that stint in India. After the trip here, he went back to study at Dartmouth and shifted his area of studies to Economics. In 2007, while researching Nathan & his roommate Taylor Thompson came across the problem of counterfeit drugs, especially in countries like India.
While the decision was not an easy one, the duo (both 23 years old at that time) decided to take the plunge and started working on solving the counterfeit drugs problem. They started in a small garage, but were working to find a solution for this mammoth healthcare problem.
What exactly is the problem?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a counterfeit medicine as "a medicine, which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and/or source." Estimates are that this problem is as big as 25% in developing nations (25% of all drugs are counterfeit!). And the domestic (Indian) market is worth over $12 billion.
The PharmaSecure solution
Staying in India for a while and along with a few mentors, Nathan and Taylor started developing their product. “The initial ride was hard, but we were very persistent,” says Nathan. PharmaSecure is a platform which is capable of generating and deploying trillions of codes securely and flexibly to manufacturing sites around the world.
In simpler words, PharmaSecure serializes each drug produced by a legitimate manufacturer. When this drug reaches the retailer or end user, the authenticity can be verified via a mobile phone if the drug is actually coming from the mentioned manufacturer. Every day, the codes delivered by the psID(TM) platform (the product) give over a million patients the option to authenticate their products. This can be done via SMS, Voice, Mobile App and many other ways.
Changing Serialization from an operation cost to a revenue opportunity
Apart from solving a problem for the end user and retailers, PharmaSecure solves another key problem as well. Serialization is usually looked upon as an operation cost but the intelligence from PharmaSecure can change this into a revenue opportunity.
psVerify is the product suite that allows users to check for codes and builds trust for the manufacturers. “It gives the manufacturer valuable insights into the distribution, usage and diversion of their products,” says Nathan. This also provides the foundation for PharmaSecure’s consumer engagement and research platforms that allow manufacturers to understand patient behaviors and makes it a revenue opportunity.
Scale and the vision
The company has raised more than $6 million ($4 million in 2011) and has scaled rapidly since then. It has close to a 40 people in total now and the company is headquartered in Lebanon, USA and Gurgaon, India. “I had some experience about entrepreneurship previously but this was a complete new ballgame. We got a CTO, an operations V.P and more senior people who’ve done it before to steer the ship,” says Nathan.
Since inception, the company has marked more than 500 million packages for some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies like Lupin, Unichem and Ranbaxy. The vision is to concentrate on what they’ve built and increase penetration. Currently sufficiently funded for their operations, PharmaSecure is picking investors carefully and may raise a further round if they meet the right promoters.