Interview with Erick Ilarraza: “Life Science meets IT”-Hackathon winner 2017

One of the big opportunities within EIT Health is creating a network of health innovators which spans all across Europe. Therefore, establishing and growing its alumni network is a strategic task for EIT Health and has been firmly rooted in the Campus pillar.

Last year, Erick Ilarraza participated in our “Life Science meets IT Hackathon” in Heidelberg and won the Award in the category “Best business model” with his solution “Lifecrypter” (protection from counterfeit drugs through blockchain technology). He subsequently founded his start-up “Checamed”. In order to introduce him to our community, we recently interviewed Erick. Read on if you would like to hear what he had to say.

Erick Ilarraza

EIT Health Germany: What is your name and what is your background?

Erick: Hello, I am Erick Ilarraza, a computer engineer. I studied at the University Simón Bolívar, Venezuela and the Politecnico di Milano, Italy. I have +10 years experience as a SAP Technology Expert working for different companies in a broad range of industries in the LATAM market.

EIT Health Germany: How did you get in touch with EIT Health?

Erick: I was introduced to EIT Health through the Mafinex Technology Center. They suggested to participate in the {LIFE SCIENCE} MEETS IT Hackathon, Heidelberg 2017. We did and we won the prize for the best business model and also a place at the European Summer School, Heidelberg 2017. After that I used some of my savings to create my startup company “Checamed” in Mannheim, Germany. The start-up receives support from EIT Health Germany, the Mafinex Technology Center, the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center, Heidelberg Startup Partners and the Amazon Web Service Activate Program. We also received support from Google’s Cloud Platform in the area of AI.

EIT Health Germany: Which EIT Health events/programmes did you attend?


Thanks a lot!!

EIT Health Germany: How did you come across the problem that you are trying to solve with Checamed?

Erick: During the {LIFE SCIENCE} MEETS IT Hackathon, Heidelberg 2017, we worked on a medical challenge proposed by the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center which was related to creating a blockchain-based solution to increase the supply chain security for the pharmaceutical industry. We called it lifecrypter and the goal was to trace each item of medicine throughout its trade history to largely “disincentivise” the distribution of counterfeit drugs.Checamed” is an evolution of this initial approach.

EIT Health Germany: What is the solution that you are developing with Checamed?

Erick: Unfortunately after the {LIFE SCIENCE} MEETS IT Hackathon, I was unable to persuade the other members of the initial team to join the project on a full-time basis. Then later I attended the European Summer School, Heidelberg 2017, where we learned how to innovate in life science. One day we made a trip to the Heidelberg Schloss, where we visited the Deutsche Apotheke Museum (here you can see the evolution of the pharmaceutical industry through its history). Then I came up with the idea of creating a “digitized drug”, each drug has a unique “digital twin”. Through this “twin”, you can interact with your medicine as a patient, pharma company, hospital or government regulatory body. That radically changed the initial approach, since we now focus our efforts on the weakest link in the supply chain: the patient. By using design thinking and speaking with patients in South America, we were able to meet the specific needs of the LATAM market, where counterfeit drugs are a huge problem, since falsified medicinal products do (not) only reach patients through illegal means, but via the legal supply chain as well. The result was: “ChecaMed”.

Imagine checking the good provenance of your medicine, receiving a notification when it is near to the expiration date, or even receiving a message from the manufacturer due to a emergency recall of the product. Hospitals can be notified that the medicines in a particular “smart storage” are risking to be destroyed due to humidity or temperature changes, NGOs can use AI and smart contracts to manage the shipping of bulks of medicines to Africa. We even include a family button and a pillbox virtual storage in your smartphone. That is the future. If the European pharma industry does not take this seriously, it will be disrupted by the digital transformation in the emerging markets.

EIT Health Germany: What do you need in terms of additional expertise/partners to bring your solution to the market?

Erick: It is indeed too difficult to bring on board an expert pharmaceutical partner to risk capital on this, because it is not an obvious idea but a typical reverse innovation business case. We are looking for an early adopter who wants to co-innovate with us in order to exploit the potential of blockchain technology. However there is a practical problem: The COMMISSION DELEGATED REGULATION (EU) 2016/161 does not provide for verification of the authenticity of the product by the end user, which means that the same law that is designed to protect the patient, is inadvertably creating a “digital wall”. Emerging countries are looking to the EU as a role model to create their own legal frameworks, thus I hope opens a public debate about this issue now.

In my humble opinion, patients around the globe must be empowered with the human right to validate the good provenance of drugs they are acquiring, owning not only the physical product but the digital representation of it. I would encourage EIT Health to communicate this in as many communications they may have at EU-level. You could be saving thousand of lives.

EIT Health Germany: What do you like about EIT Health? And what would you like to improve?

Erick: EIT promotes a framework to create, deploy and test disruptive ideas. This independent thinking framework is the base for sparking the innovation into society. That is just brilliant. On the other hand, by opening the doors to persons outside the EU like me, you are also opening the doors to reverse innovation, and one time it happens, you can’t avoid the creative destruction that comes with it.

If you want to improve even more, you can expand your partner of networks to other industries which initially are not obviously related to life science. For example one of the reasons the Chinese car industry is leading the electric vehicle and self-driving car markets is the fine particulate matter (aka PM2.5). This refers to tiny particles or droplets in the air whose size means that once inhaled, they can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health. Therefore investing heavily in Electric Cars is an obvious idea when you live in Beijing, but it is not an obvious idea when you live in Stuttgart or in Detroit. As a result the powerful internal combustion western car industry was disrupted by a tiny particular matter: Bye-bye Diesel 🙂

EIT Health Germany: If someone would like to learn more about Checamed, what is the best way to get in touch with you?

You can go to our web site: or contact us to:

EIT Health Germany: Thanks a lot for the interview.

A video about Checamed can be found here:

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