Next Einstein Forum: West Africa’s healthcare system is faced with a couple of challenges. What are the main barriers that need to be overcome?
Temie Giwa-Tubosun: One of the major challenges is limited access to critical medical supplies such as blood, oxygen, and vaccines. This is particularly due to the severely fragmented healthcare supply chain. In overcoming this challenge, there is a need to create a steady supply of these products and provide cold chain distribution to the last mile. This will ensure better healthcare delivery and improve patient health outcomes.
Did this environment inspire you to launch LifeBank?
T.G.T.: One of the major issues in our environment is elevated maternal mortality rates, and postpartum haemorrhage is the biggest cause of maternal deaths. There was a need to improve the safety and accessibility of blood supplies for maternal healthcare interventions towards solving this problem, and LifeBank was created to respond to this problem. We are solving the problem of blood safety through the combination of science and state-of-the-art technology. Furthermore, the gaps in the healthcare supply chain have inspired us to do more. During COVID-19, we built testing infrastructure across Lagos and Oyo, and our facilities tested over 15,000 people at no cost, forming about 5% of the national testing capacity in Nigeria. Our primary aim is to build the supply chain engine that powers the African healthcare system.
What are some of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself since you started out?
T.G.T.: One of the most challenging situations was providing clinical evidence supporting our technological solutions to healthcare stakeholders. The difficulty of this situation led us to design our products with scientific thinking, and we started exploring clinical research to validate our products. This has pushed us towards being a science company providing evidence-backed solutions.
What lessons have you learned from this experience?
T.G.T.: A critical lesson I have learned over the years is to validate the business assumptions and our technological solutions. I have built LifeBank as a Life Science research-oriented company. We are always particular about rolling out evidence-backed healthcare solutions capable of transforming healthcare systems in developing nations.
Which project achievement are you most proud of? Why?
T.G.T.: I am quite proud of our efforts towards ensuring universal access to safe blood. We are currently working in partnership with Johnson and Johnson and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research on clinical research to improve blood safety and eliminate the incidence of Transfusion Transmissible Infections such as HIV, Hepatitis and Syphilis. We believe that this project will contribute towards efforts to reduce the disease burden in developing countries, particularly Africa and guarantee access to safe blood for transfusion.
Since its inception in 2016, how has LifeBank evolved on the African market? What are the key elements of your success?
T.G.T.: Our team is a significant element of our success. We are very conscious about our culture, and our core values include relentlessness, merit, care and growth. The team has worked hard to push us to our present state. In addition, we also believe in building critical partnerships with organizations. These partnerships help us grow rapidly and reach more vulnerable people.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business growth? How?
T.G.T.: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the integral role of LifeBank in building a resilient healthcare system. We were able to adapt quickly and bridge the gaps in the healthcare supply chain.
What are the future plans for LifeBank?
T.G.T.: In the future, we plan to expand to other developing countries and reach more vulnerable people with critical medical products. We are also building our infrastructure to conduct ground-breaking translational life science research and roll out evidence-backed healthcare interventions in the African landscape
From your experience as a successful entrepreneur, what advice would you give young innovators who would like to create a start-up in the healthcare sector?
T.G.T.: My advice for those starting in the healthcare sector would be to pay special attention to product validation through research. The healthcare industry is full of numerous technologies with various claims, and this is why it is critical to stand out from the crowd by backing your claims with scientific evidence.
By Szymon Jagiello