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FIP 89: High Tech Bio Tech for Development with Eddy Agbo of Fyodor Biotech

For the second episode in our high tech for development episode, I’m speaking to Eddy Agbo of Fyodor Biotech. We speak about early diagnostic methods that are changing the game for global health and the opportunities these represent for social enterprise. Eddy is the CEO of Fyodor Biotech, he’s a PHD from Utrecht University in the Netherlands in molecular genetics and has a post-doctoral fellowship in medicine and infectious diseases at John Hopkins. Fyodor Biotech is building a portfolio of non-invasive fever diagnostic products for emerging markets, of which one, they’re now commercialising, is the Urine Malaria Test (UMT) – a test for malaria that tells within 25minutes if a fever is malaria, using only a few drops of urine.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Malaria diagnosis is a field that hadn’t evolved for over a hundred years until the 1970s, and then again today. So the time to big disruption has reduced from 100 years to 40. The big innovation has been to remove the guess work in whether someone has malaria or not.
  • The UMT product took 8 years to get to market, and has been sold commercially now for two years in Nigeria and Liberia only. Their strategy is to target the private healthcare sector first.
  • They started developing the product in the market crash of 2008 so funding was a challenge, so they had to bootstrap and form strategic partnerships.
  • They competed for public grant funding in the life sciences sector from the US or British governments.
  • They were able to raise equity funding from different funders during the development stage. When the technology was developed and in people’s hands, it made a difference to their funding, and they received much more interest from investors.
  • They’re distributing to both business and consumers. They’re working with major pharmaceutical distributors, but are also allowing customers to purchase directly from them.
  • They have distribution partnerships with a range of suppliers, mostly of the online marketing kind.
  • They went to the Nigerian market first, because of the size of that market, because they wanted to get to scale in a market where the impact could be felt and where they could eventually achieve a lower price point for the public sector. And Nigeria has a large private health sector which is key to their growth strategy.
  • Their partnership with John Hopkins was due to a key part of the technology they licensed from them. They have a global, exclusive license from them, which was critical because of the credibility it has brought and the resources they’ve drawn on to help them succeed.
  • They do their early stage research in the US and later stage development in the target market. This meant bringing blood and urine samples into the US, and the red tape was such a challenge. But it was something John Hopkins was able to help with, since they had extensive experience with this.
  • John Hopkins also provided some crucial early introductions that helped with funding and access to important resources in the product development.
  • They implemented a major clinical trial (2000 participants) that built compelling evidence that helped with investor funding.
  • It was published in leading journals (see link below)
  • Functionality testing had to show that a certain skilled level of operator can do the tests, and that an acceptable product shelf life could be.
  • Eddy’s vision is to build a portfolio of products that could help populations in the developing world with a fever, to help in the initial diagnostic stages, to know what has caused the fever and remove the presumptive diagnostic process in patient care.

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FIP 83: Marketing in Emerging Markets with Amanda Arch of Kasha

Today, we speak with Amanda Arch of Kasha on how it uses online and mobile platforms to market and deliver health products to middle class and BOP consumers in Rwanda.

On this episode:

  • Amanda explains Kasha’s development in Rwanda, which began with building out an MVP of the technology and then working with different customer segment test groups.
  • Amanda shared that Kasha partnered with non-profits deeply imbedded in Kigali, universities, and associations of professional women to set up test groups that ring fence customers with very similar and specific characteristics to build profiles.
  • Lessons learned from this process are: (1) there is a difference between excitement and ordering, so the company needs a strong feedback loop with customers, and (2) people really wanted to see products in person before ordering, so it is really important to have products on hand as part of the customer acquisition process.
  • Amanda also recommends developing power users and / or brand ambassadors that can get feedback from other users, as well as providing post-event communications methods (such as Whatsapp).
  • Their three core customer segments are BOP customers, university students, and professional women, which are designated into these groups by ordering or delivering method. Amanda detailed how Kasha chose their segment marketing methods, which started with looking at what else was happening in the market and what the best practices are (for example, agent-based networks in rural communities) and then customized these channels for Kasha. Each segment has different messaging, events, and specials based on their group’s characteristics.
  • She also explained that in the early stages, the company only tested messages and channels to understand their efficacy, not their cost. This allowed the company to make an investment in the brand that would not make sense for unit economics as they scale up. In the next phase, they really focused on customer acquisition data with an overall eye on lifetime value per marketing investment.
  • During interactions with customers, Kasha also seeks to capture data for themselves to better understand their core customers as well as verify it with other external sources. Amanda also provides some of the company’s key KPIs including orders across segment, repeat orders, unique customers, and average basket size. She also shares some insight into the business model which looks at average basket size across different segments in order to resist only serving more profitable segments or limiting the platform to higher margin products.

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