A novel drug detection technology

November 1, 2009

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

Researchers at the University of Leicester (UK) have combined crime research and space-age technology to create a new method of detecting counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The technique, Spectral ID, works by detecting the differences between the characteristics of light reflected from printed packaging.

Researchers at the University of Leicester (UK) have combined crime research and space-age technology to create a new method of detecting counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The technique, Spectral ID, works by detecting the differences between the characteristics of light reflected from printed packaging.

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe speaks to Professor Martin Gill, Professor George Fraser and Dr Guy Peters from the Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International (PRCI), a spin out company from the University of Leicester, to find out more.

Q1: Why did the researchers, who have expertise in space physics and crime and security, decide to develop a technique for detecting counterfeit pharmaceuticals?
We came together by chance; we sat next to each other at a meeting organized by the University and started discussing security and crime prevention issues. At the time Gill was researching the illicit market and noted that counterfeiting was a problem. Fraser mentioned that he had a solution — they met up and discussed the idea further, which was the start of what is now Spectral ID.

Q2: How beneficial was the innovative combination of expertise?
Crucial. Fraser is a scientist with a grasp of the science of reflectance spectroscopy. Gill has links with the security world. Indeed, it was Gill that obtained samples which Fraser and team tested that laid the foundation for what subsequently happened. Gill obtained 30 samples and when tested the team were 100 per cent correct.

Q3: Can you explain how the new system works?
The system works by analysing tuned optical light reflected from the surface of a suspect sample using a specially modified spectrometer and comparing this to the signature of a known genuine sample. This method requires no modification to the product or packaging and is non-destructive.

Q4: What does the technology offer over anticounterfeiting technologies currently used by the pharma industry?
Established methods of anticounterfeiting technologies include RFID, laser marking, security films, inks and holograms, but all of these require modification to the product. Spectral-ID provides a simple to use technology that is cheaper to use and provides accurate results in only a few seconds.

Q5: A pharmaceutical association has agreed to help take the work further. What further developments/advances do you think can be made to the system?
Further miniaturization and increasing the spectral range are developments that would increase the appeal of the system, giving an additional integrated test, providing a further level of security against counterfeit products. This is one of the means by which Spectral-ID stays ahead of counterfeiters, who are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Q6: What kind of reaction have you received from the pharma industry so far regarding the technology?
At this concept stage the reaction has been extremely positive — this is true of all parts of the industry we have spoken to. It would be great if we could find a business partner and investor to take us to a working prototype.

Q7: The pharma industry currently faces a great deal of criticism regarding its lack of innovation. Do you think there is potential for the industry to explore collaborations and research projects with other industries and research disciplines to enhance R&D and manufacturing methods?
Yes; for us, what is distinct about this project and the product is that it combines the expertise of science and security management. Both have been crucial. Moreover, the other staff involved have been engaged and committed throughout.

www.perpetuitygroup.com

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