Turning to Nature to Fight Counterfeiting


Applied DNA Sciences Inc. (ADNAS) has wrapped up trials demonstrating that its SigNature DNA markers can be authenticated when used in packaging materials and on pharmaceutical tablets. The markers were added to new pharmaceutical-grade inks produced in partnership with Nissha Printing Company and KishuGiken Kogyo Co. Ltd. (KGK).

ADNAS is hoping to “secure supply chains by preventing the incursion of counterfeits,” Dr. James Hayward, President and CEO, ADNAS, reveals. “We engineer unique DNA tags from botanical genomes and can produce and manufacture an infinite quantity depending upon demand.”

With the DNA-based solution, there may be more options for encryption compared with digital coding. Digital codes are “binary,” meaning they have two choices for each bit of content, explains Hayward. DNA offers four choices—the squared of binary, he says.

Along with the markers, ADNAS creates an optical component that fluoresces under an ultraviolet light for physically scanning “to signify that our DNA is there,” he says. The company has developed a handheld multimodal reader to do just that. He adds that a system could be developed so that the optical marks could be read at packaging line speeds.

Hayward says that while UV light scanning provides an optical record of the DNA, “if it ever came to a legal event, to prove the presence or absence of the DNA [one would] sample the biological elements that make up the DNA.”

The technology’s sensitivity allows it to be “detected with just a single molecule,” he adds. “It is detectable with a very high fidelity, and there’s almost no false positives or negatives.”

In addition to being added to ink, the SigNature DNA markers can be added to varnishes; they are suitable for all phases of printing and hot stamping as well as molding and extruding in other materials, says Hayward.