One Richmond-area startup company soon will be using its technology to help improve the supply of medicines in a region of the world affected by tropical diseases.
Founded by Matthew Rosen and Alona Ioanidis, TraceRx won two local business pitch competitions in 2018 in 2019 for its technology that does what its name implies: It enables international aid organizations to better track and secure medicine shipments in locales where loss and theft is a pervasive problem.
“The goal is to build a more secure network,” said Rosen, who worked for aid organizations for 12 years before starting TraceRx.
Now, TraceRx’s technology has been selected to help track medicine shipments in Nigeria under a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant was awarded to RTI International, a nonprofit research institute based in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina. The dollar amount was not disclosed.
RTI is using the grant to support the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria in using TraceRx’s supply chain platform to ensure that donated medicines are accurately tracked and accounted for as they are distributed.
“We are mapping five drugs in two states over the course of two years,” Rosen said.
The TraceRx platform will be the exclusive technology to map out the distribution of medicines for NTDs, or neglected tropical diseases, which affect mainly poor populations in the developing world but which can be treated with medicines.
Nigeria has one of the largest populations at risk for neglected tropical diseases, according to RTI, but the current storage and movement of donated medicines in Nigeria is tracked through a paper-based system. The TraceRx platform will allow the national NTD program in Nigeria to scan and track all medicines, RTI said.
Up to 30% of relief goods sent overseas are lost at some point during the supply chain, Rosen said.
“We developed software that works modularly and organically in-country and captures all of those movements of the goods in real time,” he said. “It works not just at a warehouse and shipping level, but all the way down to a field-tent, forward distribution — a doctor with a backpack.”
TraceRx developed a system that uses technology including radio frequency identification, GPS and blockchain to improve tracking.
“All these components come together to harmonize into a semiautonomous network where packages and items can be recognized, identified and tracked,” Rosen said.
TraceRx’s platform also can be used to help prevent counterfeit products from being substituted for real medicines, Rosen said.
In 2018, TraceRx Inc. won first place and a $5,000 award in the SCOREcard Business Pitch Competition sponsored by the Richmond-area chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit association that provides mentoring for entrepreneurs.
In 2019, the startup won $10,000 in an annual business pitch contest sponsored by the Dominion Energy Innovation Center and Randolph-Macon College. The startup also received a one-year membership with the Dominion Energy Innovation Center, a business incubator in Ashland.
“It was extremely helpful for us to be there, and we really appreciate the role they played in our evolution,” Rosen said of the incubator. “We went from ideation to a physical office space. As we now grow out of that now, we will look to see where our next space is.”