Two Wits pharmacy graduates have been granted start-up capital for their automated pill-dispensing innovation.

The Prospector@Wits short course facilitated by Wits Enterprise awarded two pharmacy graduates R100 000 in seed funding on June 1, 2021 for their winning invention, an automated antimicrobial pill-counting device called Ra-pill. 

Mbuso Thwala and Mpho Maake’s invention secured them top spot in the final pitching competition. Their innovation aims to overcome challenges faced by pharmacists with the current tray and spatula method of dispensing medication to patients; a system prone to contamination and human error. Thwala said, “Automated systems will make the dispensing process more efficient and give pharmacists more control.’’  

Thwala and Maake graduated in 2020 with bachelor of pharmacy degrees. They conducted market research remotely last year by surveying final-year pharmacy students. Thwala said, “Of pharmacy students, 89.5% consider time an important factor.’’ He added that Ra-pill’s lightweight, self-cleaning design gives more time for patient counselling.  

He told Wits Vuvuzela the name Ra-pill was inspired by the speed of the device: “It was just a play on words. It is rapid, deals with tablets and it is fast.”  

Maake was surprised that their innovative idea won. ‘‘I did not expect it, but I was super happy about it,’’ she said.

The budding entrepreneurs told Wits Vuvuzela they hope their product will be making a profit within the next two years. “We feel like we just finished the easy part,” said Thwala. “Now the hard work begins; we have to justify the funding to the investors.” 

One of the three judges of the competition, Sipho Dikweni, portfolio commercialisation manager at the Technology Innovation Agency’s information and communication technology business unit, shared his insights on the final pitching session. 

“It was very difficult to choose the winner as all the teams were actually on par with industry shifts and market demands,” Dikweni told Wits Vuvuzela, but added that Ra-pill was a cut above the rest: “[They had] a clear understanding of the market and a strategic approach in identifying key stakeholders,” he said. 

 Dineo Masokoane, Wits Enterprise innovation support manager, said another course will be run in July 2021. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Mbuso Thwala and Mpho Maake  Photo:Supplied