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UOWD students’ public health innovation wins regional research accolade

UOWD students’ public health innovation wins regional research accolade

Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

A team of Computer Science students from the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) has created a one-of-a-kind system to tackle the life-threatening concerns surrounding the consumption of counterfeit and expired medication. The innovation, which is based on Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, won third place in the Public Health category at the 7th annual edition of the Abu Dhabi University Undergraduate Research Competition.

Students Hareem Fatima, Adam Khan Liwal, Ibrahim Arshad, Sahan Ratnayake and Mehvish Sharieff, known collectively as Team 5bits, came up with the idea in an attempt to reduce the 1 million lives lost each year due to the consumption of sub-standard medicines. The project, called ‘BlockSupplAI’, focusses on creating a regulated network of trusted pharmaceutical supply chain stakeholders to eliminate the circulation of counterfeit, recalled and expired medicines.  

Team 5bits explained, “BlockSupplAI is a network of stakeholders – manufacturers, retailers, distributors – involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain. The solution we propose uses a unique QR code, generated by Blockchain, to provide live traceability throughout the network. Even an end customer can simply scan a QR code on the medicine pack using their phone to know whether a medicine is authentic or not.

“It also delivers business analytics to the stakeholders, to eliminate the issues of shortage or over-production of medicines, which can lead to a loss of lives or a waste of money. The process of recalling sub-standard medicines has not been improved over the past 60 years. BlockSupplAI offers a remarkable feature of recalling batches of sub-standard drugs at a click by notifying the stakeholders in possession of those drugs. There are also various web portals and mobile application that seamlessly connect to stakeholders and provide them with all the functionality they need.”

The team presented the project during the finals of the competition at Abu Dhabi University, which this year witnessed 44 universities participating from across the GCC. The award ceremony was held under the patronage of His Excellency Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, UAE Minister of Education, and saw the team awarded AED 1,500 in prize money for the innovation.

Speaking about the experience, Hareem concluded, “We had a chance to talk to the experts in the industry and to get valuable feedback on our project. It was an amazing experience, but for us, winning is not the end point. We want this project to thrive and be implemented to save lives.”
The team was mentored by Associate Professor, Dr Halim Khelalfa, who said, “They started working on the project in September without any knowledge of Blockchain technology, yet they kept working diligently and have been able to assess the different Blockchain technologies available, select the one suitable for their application and develop a working prototype that involves drug manufacturers, distributors, retailers, customers, as well as the regulating authority. We are very proud of the team’s dedication and performance.” 

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