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Fake Malaria Meds Meet Their Match in a Handheld Spectrometer

Up to 35 percent of antimalarial drugs are useless. Engineers are combatting this counterfeit menace

3 min read
Photo: David Longstreath/AP
Pailin Pharmacy: Malaria drugs in Cambodia could be suspect.
Photo: David Longstreath/AP

Counterfeit malariamedications can easily fool the eye: The fake drugs sold in markets throughout Africa and Asia often look exactly like the authentic products. The pills are the right shape and size, the packaging is identical to that of the real brand, and the boxes often feature the duplicated logos and holographic stickers of official regulators.

But these knockoffs can’t fool chemistry. That’s why engineers from Global Good, a philanthropic invention lab in Bellevue, Wash., are trying to solve the counterfeit problem with a handheld device that uses optical spectrometry to check the chemical composition of medications. In the next few months, drug inspectors and pharmacists in Kenya, Namibia, and Laos will begin field trials of the technology.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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