WuXi bets on anti-counterfeiting tech with an eye on drug safety

WuXi PharmaTech ($WX), China's largest pharma outsourcing outfit, is investing in a startup that makes tiny, edible bar codes designed to prevent drug counterfeiting, planning to offer the same technology to its manufacturing customers.

Through its corporate venture fund, WuXi is bankrolling TruTag Technologies, a Hawaii-headquartered maker of dust-sized particles that function as micro security devices. Each TruTag, inert and digestible, can be encoded with detailed information and integrated into a pill without the need for external packaging, and a simple scan of the resultant product can confirm authenticity and convey information about site and date of manufacture, the company said.

TruTag was named a 2014 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum thanks to its technology's 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."

For WuXi, one of the world's largest contract manufacturers, the technology presents a chance to both protect its customers' intellectual property and combat the global scourge of counterfeit drugs, CEO Ge Li said. Dangerous knock-off meds are estimated to cause more than 100,000 deaths each year, and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy figures the counterfeit industry generated roughly $75 billion in 2010.

And, thanks to its fast-growing manufacturing arm, WuXi is well-positioned to introduce TruTag's technology to the market. Last year, the CRO's manufacturing revenue leapt 25.8% to $147.2 million, driven largely by a swell in demand for in-China services.

- read the announcement

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