A company that started off with the name SingularID over half a decade ago has long impressed me with its ability to take a nanomaterial—in this case nanomagnets—and develop a suite of tools around its physical phenomena to sell a product that helps in brand protection.
Bilcare Research acquired the small start-up back in 2007, and it seems the anti-counterfeiting technology could have a real impact in combating drug counterfeits in India, according to this recent BBC story.
According to the BBC piece, counterfeit drugs are a $200 billion business whose main target continues to be poor and developing countries. What we’re talking about here is not just lost profits for the genuine drug producers, but also sometimes lethal consequences for people who need a particular drug but receive a fake one that lacks the active ingredient needed—or simply poisonous drugs.
The article goes on to explain that a number of technologies, including Bilcare’s, are under consideration for combating the counterfeit drugs. What I always found intriguing about the nanomagnet solution developed by SingularID and now marketed by Bilcare is that even they can’t make a copy of it—the nanoparticles position themselves in random patterns.
But beyond that, what always attracted me to the story of this technology is that the developers didn’t just settle with a nanomaterial and a patent and expect the world to come knocking on their door with lucrative licensing agreements. Instead, they developed an entire product that they could sell to someone. This has been surprisingly rare in the brief time that there have been nanotech companies.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.