TruTag, the Tiny Barcodes Protecting Consumers from Counterfeit Drugs

The company's barcodes—which are currently used on food, pharmaceuticals, vaping pods and more—are FDA-approved, microscopic and edible.

22.10.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

According to PYMNTS, merchants suffered $323 billion in total losses from counterfeit products in 2017. Online sales of counterfeit and illicit products are predicted to reach $1.8 trillion by 2020. 

“Illicit trade in fake goods is a major challenge in an innovation-driven global economy,” said Christian Archambeau, executive director at the European Union Intellectual Property Office. “It has a negative impact on the sales and profits of affected firms, as well as broader adverse effects on the economy as well as public health, safety and security.”

TruTag Technologies is working to protect society from the multi-billion-dollar fraud industry, ultimately saving lives in the process.

Named a “Technology Pioneer” by the World Economic Forum, the California-based startup is focused on the security, safety, and quality of pharmaceuticals, foods, vaping pods and other products. The company has developed edible, microscopic barcodes—otherwise known as TruTags— that can be placed directly on products or packaging, allowing both brand owners and customers to properly authenticate their items throughout the supply chain.

TruTags are made out of nano-porous silica, a material that has received GRAS (generally recognised as safe) notice from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are used with hyperspectral imaging technology, a process capable of processing more wavelengths and, thus, more detailed data compared to other imaging methods. When scanned, TruTags provide information about lot numbers, authorised distributors, where the product was manufactured and other identifying data.

Not only do these barcodes bring transparency back to the supply chain, but the ability to verify products in the pharma and food sectors can save lives.

“TruTags material is an already approved excipient in pills by the FDA,” TruTag CEO Michael Bartholomeusz told TechCrunch. “Pharmaceuticals and food comprise a very large portion of the global counterfeiting problem, and given the very unique edible feature of TruTag’s solution, this is a core area of focus for the company.”

Compared to other quality assurance solutions, the barcodes can be placed directly on the product, are edible and provide information in only a few seconds.

TruTag Technologies raised $7.5 million in Series C funding in a round led by Pangaea Ventures and Happiness Capital.

“Pangaea is excited to partner with TruTag and help the company expand its team and product portfolio,” Matthew Cohen, director of technology at Pangaea, said in a statement. “We believe TruTag’s edible barcode technology will help increase consumer confidence and ultimately save lives. TruTag is making our world better by utilising compelling advanced materials and advanced material process innovations to combat rising problems such as drug counterfeiting.”

The funds will be used to expand and further commercialise the company’s platform.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with TruTag,” said Eric Ng, managing director at Happiness Capital. “Their team is amazing, and their unique technology solution offers a clear answer to the anti-counterfeiting challenges that the food, pharmaceutical and many other sectors face. TruTag will certainly make the world a happier place.”

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