Fast rewind to 2004 and there you have a certain undergrad hanging on for dear life in his sophomore year. It’s a horrible scene, a young man clinging to life support as he battles through the throes of death for several hours.
There are scores of health personnel fiddling with medical apparatus in an effort to stabilize him, just as there are family, friends, and relatives holding their breath – trust me, you don’t want to be here.
Adebayo Alonge was in his second year at Nigeria’s premier institution, the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where he had shown some early promise in his field of study, Pharmacy, before being struck with a bout of illness that aggravated even further after he unsuspectingly ingested a fake drug.
Like the millions of Nigerians who have been put in harm’s way under similar circumstances, he was battling for his life. But luckier than most, he lived to tell the tale.
Fifteen years ago, Alonge’s life hung on a balance but between then and now, it’s been one hell of a ride. Guess who took home USD 113 K (EUR 100 K) this Tuesday after becoming the first African to win the prestigious Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge? Adebayo Alonge!
And you might be able to also guess why he took home the gold. Alonge saw off competition from several contenders for the 2019 BNP Paribas Group Deep Tech Award on the backs of his invention – handheld nano-scanners which use AI to identify fake drugs and assess general drug quality on mobile phones. How fitting it is that the matador has returned to take the head off the bull that almost gored him.
It was with teary eyes that the Nigerian tech entrepreneur accepted the award on a night when key scientific innovations were celebrated. When it was time for his acceptance speech, what was followed was an emotional rendition of his life-threatening struggles and his commitment to ensuring that no one else ever has to go through the same.
These days, Adebayo Alonge is known as a global pioneer of in-situ drug authentication and the utilisation of ‘deepTech’ in track and trace programs for the pharmaceutical industry. He also considers himself a visionary market development professional with experience selling over USD 180 Mn worth of products.
But it was anything but an easy climb. It’s been a journey laden with challenges and the young man appears to have had the right answers at every turn. Hard work and the pursuit of excellence has been something of a hallmark. And it looks like the rewards are starting to trickle in.
A bright student from his high school days, Alonge eventually bounced back from the struggles of his sophomore year and since then, he hasn’t looked back. After graduating with First Class Honours from College – in what was actually a laurel-laden six years – he’s been pretty much everywhere. From Lagos Business School (Pan-Atlantic University) to Hitotsubashi University (Japan), Yale and even Harvard.
He could also be linked to the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, as well as the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.
After putting in work over the years in such areas as pharmaceutical sciences, strategy consulting, business management and software development – an effort that has seen him bag 11 years of experience working for various multinationals including BCG, BASF, Roche, and Sanofi – he opted to pursue something of his own in 2017.
It was October of that year that he co-founded his company, RxAII Inc. The company is currently enabling science research application in the field of pharma spectrometry in both Africa & South-East Asia. It is also sponsoring joint research projects in several countries.
RxAII runs across three continents – Africa, Asia, and North America – and Alonge leads a multinational team drawn out of different countries: Nigeria, Kenya, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Myanmar, U.S.A, Canada, and Brazil.
As part of efforts geared towards supporting medicine regulators/FDA’s in low-income countries, Alonge has also incorporated a donation programme into the RxAII mechanism which will enable access to its solution.
The technology can be used by the regulators to test drug quality at the ports and even in pharmacies by means of mobile phones. More than that, the RxAII solution can pinpoint areas of entry of counterfeit drugs in real time and help identify who’s responsible, thus helping the authorities crack down on the culprits.
Drug test reports, including geolocation data of tests and timestamps, can also be shared amongst regulators by means of the technology. That way, a lot of the administrative burden is let off and record-keeping is significantly improved – doing a solid to productivity and helping to clamp down on unscrupulous elements.
Before the success at the Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge, Alonge had already seen RxAII through various incubators, competitions, projects, and milestones. Now, he wants to connect with people around the world to combat the spate of counterfeit drugs. And probably build a multi-million-dollar company while at it.
Featured Image Courtesy: framtida.no