Kemet to build 'modular' manufacturing facilities to resolve global drug shortages, advance health equity

Kemet Advanced Manufacturing is tackling medical shortages in Canada and globally with a new innovative approach. The Edmonton-based company aims to build modular, portable, and digitally connected manufacturing facilities that can produce essential drugs based on the market's needs.

"We need smaller facilities that are interconnected," said Kemet founder and CEO Morẹ́nikẹ́ Ọláòṣebìkan. "Prefabricated drug manufacturing facilities can be transported to any part of the world experiencing shortages. The way they would actually function is that they're hyperlocal but globally interconnected via a digital platform."

Kemet was founded in 2016 and is currently operating out of a pilot facility at the Edmonton Research Park. Ọláòṣebìkan said she is prototyping software to gather information about drug shortages and is also working with regulatory specialists to see if her concepts are feasible.

"In this pilot facility, we're going to test out some of our ideas around making drugs," Ọláòṣebìkan told Taproot. "The plan is to explore and develop our proof of concept around cleanrooms, fulfill drug shortages and get establishment licenses from Health Canada." A cleanroom is a space with a controlled environment required for drug manufacturing, she explained.

Ọláòṣebìkan, a registered clinical pharmacist, said getting those licenses from Health Canada could take up to a year. Kemet is also exploring drug shortages and demand within the Canadian market.

According to Health Canada, there is a shortage of 10 to 15% of drugs at any given time and almost half of all marketed drugs in Canada have faced a shortage at least once.

"We're going to supply the Canadian drug shortage market as well, and then with a proven model, proven facility, and proven processes, we'll transfer that knowledge to Africa," Ọláòṣebìkan told Taproot.

Morẹ́nikẹ́ Ọláòṣebìkan is the founder and CEO of Kemet. (Supplied)

Morẹ́nikẹ́ Ọláòṣebìkan is the founder and CEO of Kemet. (Supplied)

"The export of the facilities to African countries benefits Canadians too because it's export development. Over time we've developed intellectual property here in Canada that stays in Canadian headquarters," she said.

According to Ọláòṣebìkan, about 90% of medications are imported into Africa and up to 70% of what's imported to some of its countries can be fake.

"It can take up to six months to get drugs, which is very inequitable," she said.

Ọláòṣebìkan hopes that Kemet will be part of the solution by providing more people in Africa with access to essential drugs. Kemet has worked with the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), Edmonton Regional Innovation Network (ERIN), and the University of Calgary on this project. Ọláòṣebìkan said Edmonton Global has also been a key support for her company.

In addition to her role with Kemet, Ọláòṣebìkan is the chair of the Ribbon Rouge Foundation, which she started in 2006 to address health disparities for marginalized black communities in Alberta.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Kemet has built a compounding facility at the Edmonton Research Park. It has been corrected to reflect the activities taking place there.