Authentix: Keeping Track of What’s Real in a World of Counterfeits
By some estimations, ten percent of world trade is made up of counterfeit products. Every year, companies whose products are being pirated lose an estimated $800 to $900 billion in revenue. But beyond the obvious financial loss, such deception can also create serious health and safety risks to consumers. So is there any way to know whether a product is genuine?
“If you’re fighting the pirates, you need to be on the leading edge. Counterfeiters are very savvy,” says Jim Rittenburg, vice president of Authentix, a developer of authentication technologies that help ensure product safety and prevent counterfeiting.
Targeting Counterfeit Fuel
With gasoline still costing more than $2 a gallon in the U.S., fuel counterfeiting-passing off lower-grade gasoline as a higher quality-continues to increase. As a result, Authentix marking technology is appearing in a growing percentage of the U.S. gasoline supply.
All base gasoline is identical and all the major gas companies share and buy from each other. What makes one gasoline different and brand-specific is the additive packages. “In addition to marking the additive packages, we go around the country and take samples-sometimes randomly, sometimes at targeted stations. We are out there every day acting as the enforcers of the gasoline purity industry,” says Rittenburg.
Authentix markers-in this case, soluble chemical compounds specific to each brand and grade-are added into the additive packages. These markers are very difficult to detect or alter and require sophisticated laboratory and field-based equipment, all provided by Authentix.
“Gas stations, which are franchise owned, are supposed to be ordering and buying fuel from an authorized distributor, but it’s not that difficult to have a different tanker bring in a cheaper load,” Rittenburg says.
Detecting a Winner
In 1998, Rittenburg was vice president of Biocode Inc., a fledgling authentication company focused on the pharmaceutical market. He took the necessary steps to move into the Ben Franklin Business Incubator in Bethlehem and apply for investment funding to help accelerate Biocode’s work on pharmaceutical marker systems and test kit technology.
Authentix is the result of a three-company merger in 2003, when Biocode graduated from the incubator. The company is headquartered in Dallas and has operations and offices in Douglassville, PA.
“Being in the Ben Franklin incubator helped accelerate what we were doing,” says Rittenburg, who in addition to receiving business operations and strategic planning assistance, received $240,000 in funding from BFTP. “They provided a great infrastructure and it really helped get the company to profitability sooner rather than later. This was key to the formation of Authentix.”
Today Authentix is leading the charge into other markets, including pharmaceuticals, liquor, agrochemicals and government security. In the past three years, the company has skyrocketed to profitability, saving clients more than $3 billion in lost revenues.
The Business of Protecting Lives
In the pharmaceutical arena alone, dangers posed by counterfeit drugs are vast-from products that simply don’t work to altered medicines that could serve as bio-weapons. In Southeast Asia, for example, an estimated 50 percent of the malaria drugs on the shelf are fake. Currently more than $50 billion worth of pharmaceutical product is protected with Authentix technologies.
“For the pharmaceutical industry, we have developed technologies that can go onto any part of the package or product,” says Rittenburg. “We’ve also developed an ingestible technology-inactive ingredient chemical markers that go into the dosage itself. In both cases, verification happens before the product ever reaches the consumer.”
Authentix ingestible technology is used in existing drugs and also is being designed into new drugs that will soon be coming onto the market. “Most pharmaceutical companies will end up having anti-counterfeit technologies in place, and a good proportion of them will be using Authentix,” says Rittenburg.
Keynotes October, 2006
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