SDK's #Bigbangmoment: tracking donated medicine to the last mile

Publish Date

08 AUG 2019


SDK is a health data management tool for modern data collection and analysis. They joined forces with our Accelerator Program to help fight against the parasitic disease schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa.

SDK (Secure Data Kit) is based in the US and works with a number of global health organizations. Their motto “Relieve suffering with data” perfectly underscores their mission of using data to help fight diseases afflicting people living in the most remote parts of the world. This is achieved through a suite of data collection and analysis tools designed to work anywhere, even under the most difficult conditions, such as in places with no Internet access.

As an Accelerator participant, SDK worked together with our company's Schistosomiasis Elimination Program (MSEP) to ensure that all donated tablets were digitally tracked in order to guarantee that this life-saving medicine reached the people who need it most.

Hard to pronounce, easy to fight

Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by flatworms and is spread through stagnant water. Every year, more than 280,000 people die as a result of becoming infected by the worm larvae while engaging in activities such as swimming, fishing, playing, or washing their clothes. The infection rate is especially high among children. The disease stunts their growth, causes learning disabilities, and can lead to anemia. The medicine donated by our company is the most effective medicine to date for treating schistosomiasis infections. That is why it is crucial to ensure its availability in even the most hard-to-reach locations.

Teaming up to tackle a killer

Since 2007, we have worked closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against Schistosomiasis in Africa. Since then, over 900 million tablets have been donated, enabling treatment of 360 million school aged children. Although the program has been highly effective, it still faces certain challenges, such as gaps in the supply chain, especially in the final parts of the donation journey. This is why we decided to collaborate with SDK in order to deploy their technology and expertise in the first-mile tracking of donation shipments governed by the NTD supply chain forum and NTDeliver. Their attitude, dedication and sense of mission has made them not only the ideal partner but also an important partner in eliminating this insidious disease.

In 2017, SDK participated in our Accelerator Program which strongly supported the last mile implementation of their technology and nowadays the team is still supporting us to facilitate the yearly donation of 100 million doses of its medicine across the African continent. Working closely with the Schistosomiasis Elimination Program, SDK used its expertise to help reinforce the supply chain in Kenya in part by collecting real-time data on deworming campaigns. 

The collaboration with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany has been fantastic. We've had a unique opportunity to work with a number of people in both the main Darmstadt offices as well as the Nairobi office and we continue to learn every day from those teams.

Closing gaps – opening up possibilities

In terms of data collection, SKD comes with a number of native applications for gathering information, including iPhone, Android, Web, and feature phone tools. For the joint project with our company, SDK worked in over 2,000 schools to help maintain watertight distribution of the tablets. This included a data analysis of the number of children treated, the volume of tablets distributed, and the volume of drugs remaining. Since not every child had a smartphone for data collection, it was collected instead by the teachers using their own personal devices. An additional SMS chatbot also interacted with the teachers regarding data. In this way, information, supply and distribution gaps were eliminated, allowing for better treatment and more hope.

Although SDK had already been active in Kenya, the collaboration with our company and within the Accelerator Program allowed them to benefit from additional guidance in accessing resources that otherwise would have not been available. In addition, we helped establish invaluable contacts between SDK and Kenyan health and government officials. This in turn opened up a close cooperation on current and future supply chain matters.

Through this collaboration, we've also had the opportunity to deploy our platform throughout Kenya and to see Secure Data Kit track in real time the distribution of Praziquantel to school children has been one of the best experiences of my career.

Future plans

SDK continues to work with our company and the Kenyan Ministry of Health in order to extend its last-mile tool and go beyond data collection to start leveraging its analysis capabilities. To advance this goal, a specific application would be to determine more accurately where drug donations should be implemented and how to increase the number of children being treated. We at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany are looking forward to continuing work with SDK to change the course of history for people with schistosomiasis!     

It was clear from the very beginning that an expert partner would be needed. The combination of SDK’s earlier involvement in NTDeliver and being a member of our Accelerator strongly supported the choice to embark on the last-mile journey with them.

Doors are open for our Accelerator program

Do you also want to be part of the next Accelerator? This year we’re looking for collaboration-ready startups working in the fields of Bio-Sensing & Interfaces, Clean Meat, and Liquid Biopsy, as well as in our core areas of Life Sciences, Performance Materials and Healthcare. Apply now and let our experience in partnerships accelerate your business!

The collaboration with Merck has been fantastic. We've had a unique opportunity to work with a number of people in both the main Darmstadt offices as well as the Nairobi office and we continue to learn every day from those teams.

Enjoyed the read?

To keep up to date with all new happenenings at our Innovation Center, click here to subscribe to our e-mail service.