Nathan Sigworth was studying economics at Dartmouth College a few years back when he became fascinated with the problem of counterfeit drugs in developing countries. Plenty of technology had been developed to combat counterfeits—RFID tagging and the like—but it wasn’t affordable enough to be scaled up in places like India. “The technology that was out there hadn’t made it to the markets that needed it the most,” Sigworth says.
So in 2007, the same year he graduated from Dartmouth, Sigworth founded PharmaSecure with his classmate Taylor Thompson. The company equips drug manufacturers with machines that print unique bar codes and serial numbers on drug packaging. Consumers can then send those codes by text message to a number printed on the package, and they’ll get an immediate text confirming whether the drug is authentic or not. PharmaSecure also aggregates data on the texted authentications and sells it to drugmakers.
On October 24, PharmaSecure closed a $3.9 million investing round from Innovation Endeavors—the fund led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt—along with Gray Ghost Ventures, Healthtech Capital and TEEC Angel Fund. It had formerly raised $2 million in 2009 from Life Science Angels.
PharmaSecure started up in Lebanon, NH, but is in the process of moving most of its U.S. operations to San Diego, where it houses much of its technology team. The company also has a large operation in New Delhi, India, where it has so far secured deals to print authentication codes on 100 million drug packages. Sigworth estimates that PharmaSecure will also be printing its codes on 1.5 billion drugs that are exported from India to other countries.
Drug counterfeiting is a huge problem in the developing world. The World Health Organization estimates that 25 percent of drugs purchased in developing countries are fakes. Counterfeiting, which is estimated to be a $200 billion-a-year industry, puts patients’ lives at stake, and also threatens the reputations of drugmakers, Sigworth contends. His product, he says, “gives [drugmakers] the opportunity to really understand what’s happening in the distribution process and to assuage the fears of their consumers.”
PharmaSecure has benefitted from good timing. The company launched its first product in India in 2009. Then, in January of this year, the Indian government mandated … Next Page »
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