China's WuXi invests in edible anti-counterfeiting tech

TruTag Technologies Chairman Hank Wuh

Drugmakers are looking for ways to deter counterfeiters, and so contract manufacturers are having to as well. Shanghai-based WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) intends to provide a solution to its clients.

China's largest pharma outsourcing outfit says it has invested via its corporate venture fund, WuXi, in TruTag Technologies. The Hawaii-based company has developed digestible "dust sized" particles that can be encoded with detailed information. They can be manufactured into a pill without the need for external packaging, and a simple scan of the product can verify authenticity and convey information about site and date of manufacture, the company said.

The TruTag technology was deemed a 2014 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum because of its potential to make global shipping safer and more reliable, and Chairman Hank Wuh said teaming up with WuXi will give the company a springboard into the pharma industry. "TruTag is very excited to work with WuXi to explore the development of our on-dose authentication solution for WuXi's pharmaceutical customers," Wuh said in a statement. "This innovative technology is an important new weapon in fighting the growing global problem of counterfeit drugs."

Drugmakers and governments worldwide are looking for ways to keep supply chains secure. In the U.S., Europe, Brazil and even China, various forms of track-and-trace requirements are being instituted to help preserve the integrity of product supplies. But those take extensive and expensive investments from a everyone along the supply chain. Eli Lilly ($LLY), for example, is investing $110 million in a system for stamping unique codes and serial numbers on every drug package it sells worldwide. But in less developed parts of the world, where most counterfeit drugs are pawned off on unsuspecting consumers, governments are looking for simpler methods of protecting against fakes.

The FDA has developed a hand-held counterfeit-detection device, dubbed the CD3, which uses light waves to check samples against stored scans of real APIs and drugs in its memory. It emits light in 10 different wavelengths and can be used on drugs, powders and inks. It can also be used to screen cosmetics, foods, medical devices, and cigarettes, and to investigate product tampering and questionable documents. The agency is part of a partnership that started a trial program in Ghana last year to test the devices in the field in fighting counterfeit antimalarial drugs.

- read the announcement