Blockchain Insider is a new column dedicated to interviewing leaders in the blockchain world. These include founders, traditional industry veterans turned ICO participants and everything in-between. The weekly interviews will cover a wide range of questions and try to explore the motivation behind blockchain-based ideas and the problems blockchain technology is being used to solve.
A more recent trend emerging within the blockchain industry is the use and application of blockchain technology for social and humanitarian needs. The power of the blockchain is that it is essentially is borderless, scalable, and can be implemented across sectors.
FarmaTrust is one such example. Using blockchain technology, FarmaTrust will disrupt the pharmaceutical supply chain industry, ensuring counterfeit medications are not sold or consumed around the world. From a commercial perspective, their tech stack is highly adaptable and can be immediately used by governments, NGOs, and regulators to help enhance their tracking and supply chain capabilities.
FarmaTrust's CEO, Raja Sharif, took time to explain how FarmaTrust was started and provide more details on how they are looking to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry using blockchain technology.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am British, trained as a barrister, and have worked as head of legal for some of the largest international tech and telecoms brands. I worked in Doha Qatar, and before leaving I spent 5 years in commercial management, launching digital channels of Al Jazeera.
I also lived in San Francisco launching AJ+, the most viewed millennial digital channel in the world, and Istanbul to launch Al Jazeera Turk (Digital).
2. Quite the international background. How did you get involved with blockchain technology?
Since I am a lawyer, a few years ago I read about “smart contracts” and how lawyers would no longer be required. As I investigated it more and started to become curious about blockchain technologies. I invested in the DOA project to see how the concept would work.
Then, due to a distant family member being sick overseas, I came across the fact that there were significant counterfeit drugs in circulation. Having done my research, the extent to which can be seen in our whitepaper, thought that blockchain would be the ideal solution to save lives.
3. What makes FarmaTrust different from competitors, such as Ambrosus?
First, we would like to make it clear that we take a collaborative approach to our business and project. We believe not only is there commercial profit to be made from this system, but it is one of the few companies that is there to service society. After all, we have a strong conviction that our project will save lives.
We also believe that the market is of a significant size to accommodate a number of companies (just like all the other commercial sectors). Over time, the companies that innovate and are able to serve the pharmaceutical companies as well as the public will win through.
In terms of competitive advantage, we believe we have the following advantages:
1. We focus on nothing other than the pharmaceutical supply chain. Our system was designed for the pharma industry from the beginning. We understand the regulations that apply, the issues that they face, and we have solutions for the supply chain participants.
2. Our system does not require any new hardware or software to work with our blockchain product. We are also tech neutral, so it doesn’t matter what systems companies are using.
3. We can work in the developed and emerging markets. In the developed markets we plug into existing ERP systems. In the emerging markets (where manual paper records are still used) we have a number of different smart phone Apps which can scan labels and collect data for us. We incentivize the pharmacies, hospitals, and warehouses in the emerging world, by giving free accounting and stock control software services, and in return we get data.
4. Our system can allow for automated payments, automated audits and automated regulatory reporting (our system is regulatory neutral).
5. Our system provides different data dashboards for different institutions (pharmaceutical, ministries of health, regulators, logistics). Each can be provided with different data consoles. This ensures that there is transparency throughout the SCM.
6. FarmaTrust can be used to automatically notify law enforcement (eg Interpol) if there are a lot of counterfeits found in a particular area and will help avoid corruption on the black market.
7. We see ourselves as a data company, so that we when we have enough data, we can use predictive supplies, so that medicines are sent to places where and when they are needed.
8. We can also use our system to avoid waste for the pharmaceutical industry, through expired drugs, and also avoid returns fraud which is endemic in the pharma industry.
9. We are also sensor neutral, so we can scan labels, but we can also use environmental sensors to ensure that medicines are kept at the correct temperature – again, avoiding waste.
10. Farmatrust is future proof. Since we are system agnostic, and we can use any edge computing sensors, we can innovate quickly and regularly, which ensures our longevity.
11. Finally, we are the only company which provides the end user with the ability to check the medicines prior to purchase to ensure that they are genuine, ensuring confidence for ecommerce.
4. What is the biggest problem currently in the pharmaceutical industry?
Currently, people are not aware of the size of the problem. It’s a $200 billion counterfeit industry (the total market is worth $1.3 trillion) and between 500,000 and 1 million people die yearly because of fake drugs.
The pharmaceutical industry is extremely conservative and innovation on the tech side is seen with some trepidation. This stalls the potential to disrupt the industry, along with a significant number of participants in the supply chain mechanism which do not want change
5. What does 2018 have in store for you guys?
In 2018, we will have our first batch of customers who will trial the system. This includes the deployment of our mobile applications and the continued development of our API ecosystem.
6. What are the 3 most important lessons you could give aspiring blockchain entrepreneurs?
First, research everything you do in depth. Second, be decisive. Third, be determined.
Disclaimer: The author has had a working or personal relationship with FarmaTrust in the past. Access to FarmaTrust management was made through the author’s personal network.