ABC News: Restoring Sight
Seven years after its founding, a Honolulu-based bioengineering firm is spinning out its fourth biotechnology company. TruTag Technologies is the latest product of Cellular Bioengineering, which founder Hank Wuh describes as a venture accelerator that tries to solve the world’s most significant problems.
TruTag has developed a technology to address the market for counterfeit drugs. Wuh said counterfeit drugs present an $80 billion annual problem worldwide.
The company makes tiny microtags — smaller than a grain of sugar — that can be outfitted with a color-coded bar code. The underlying technology replicates the cuticle structures in the shells of beetles. The microtags, which are made of nanoporous silica wafers, have been approved as edible by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Each tag would contain a customer-specific code for tracking the authenticity or identity of a product, which could include medicine, foods and other solids and liquids. The codes can be “read” using spectrometer-based readers.
Honolulu, Hawaii, March 16, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — TruTag Technologies, a spinout of Cellular Bioengineering, Inc., was selected as the 2010 North American Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Innovation of the Year by Frost & Sullivan. TruTag™ microtags (‘TruTags’) are secure, optically encoded micro‐crystals made of pure, nanoporous silica, which is deemed “Generally Regarded as Safe, or (GRAS)” by the FDA. Therefore, TruTags are edible and can be used to authenticate and identify medicine, food and numerous other solid or liquid products.
Counterfeit goods and drugs pose a real threat to consumer safety as well as to companies whose brands are compromised and profits stolen. “We are pleased to recognize TruTags as an innovative and comprehensive security solution for maintaining the integrity of drug supplies,” said Research Analyst, Misty Hughes of Frost & Sullivan. “Our independent research teams found that the ability of TruTags to integrate security at the pill level by using a spectral signature chosen from over a trillion possible codes was a distinctive and cost‐effective security solution to the problem of fake prescription medicines, which totals $30 to $50 billion annually.”
With TruTag technology each tag contains a custom‐manufactured ‘spectral signature’ chosen from over one trillion possibilities. The unique choice of tag signature and product combination is the TruTag key to confirming the authenticity of the product, yet tagging each item costs less than a small fraction of a penny.
Frost & Sullivan’s Best Practices Award recognizes companies in a variety of markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in‐depth interviews, analysis, and extensive secondary research in order to identify best practices in the industry.
“The unique properties of the TruTag technology platform—edible, covert, resistant to high heat, and able to be mixed into a coating, dye or ink—lends itself to a wide variety of applications and industries, including medicine, dietary supplements, cosmetics, textiles, electronics and luxury goods,” said Michael O’Neill, PhD, CTO of TruTag Technologies.
“We are spinning out TruTag Technologies as an independent company in order to focus on developing a full spectrum of market applications for the TruTag platform,” said Hank Wuh, MD, MPH, CEO of Cellular Bioengineering, Inc., the parent company of TruTag Technologies, “TruTag™ microtags will have a fundamental impact on optimizing product safety and integrity for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and functional foods industry.”
TruTag Technologies joins other prestigious and innovative 2010 Frost & Sullivan award winners, such as Covance Inc., Game Ready, Immunomic Therapeutics, ISTA Pharmaceuticals, Millipore Corporation, Molecular Biometrics, MannKind Corporation, Oridion Systems Ltd., Positron Corporation, and ResMed.
About TruTag Technologies
TruTag Technologies is a new life sciences technology company spun out from Cellular Bioengineering, Inc., and is focused on applying its unique, edible spectral microtags for physical verification of authentic products. TruTags are edible and biologically inert, inconspicuous (50‐ 100 microns), require no energy input or output, and are resistant to high heat (melting point above 1600 C). To read the independent research paper prepared by Frost & Sullivan as part of the award selection process, go here.
News Release: Use of DeconGel® for Beryllium Cleanup Wins Department of Energy’s Environmental, Security, Safety and Health (ESS&H) Achievement Award
Honolulu, Hawaii, February 9, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — CBI Polymers, a subsidiary of Cellular Bioengineering, Inc., is pleased to announce that National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Safety and Ecology Corporation (SEC) have won the Environmental, Security, Safety and Health (ESS&H) Achievement Award in recognition of their innovative use of DeconGel® as a beryllium decontamination technique for the mitigation and abatement of hazardous particulate. DeconGel® is a proprietary hydrogel used to efficiently and safely decontaminate surfaces of radioactive isotopes and other hazardous chemicals and toxins.NETL, part of DOE’s national laboratory system, is owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). A DOE-NETL project manager stated in a letter to SEC, “In all my years with the federal government, I can honestly say that this has been the best project I have worked on.”Led by Mr. Hector Rodriguez of NETL and Mr. Stace Johnson of SEC, NETL testing and use of DeconGel® in beryllium decontamination reduced labor costs by a reported 70% compared to traditional methods due to decreased labor requirements, and significant reductions in the volume of waste generated. Using DeconGel® SEC decontaminated 48,500 square feet of surface area, including office material, and laboratory equipment of significant value, historical artifacts and various items considered irreplaceable. Approximately 250 tons of beryllium-contaminated equipment was removed, making 27 laboratories and three high bay areas in 12 buildings become reusable.In addition, DeconGel® reduced harmful potential exposure to workers. Beryllium and beryllium compounds are classified as Category 1 carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Traditional beryllium decontamination methods include the wet/wipe method, high detergent application and scrubbing technique, organic solvent application and removal, particulate vacuums, and sticky cloths. These methods are expensive, time consuming, and can be a safety hazard due to prolonged worker exposure and generation of airborne particles.“I am extremely pleased that these two organizations have been singled out for exceptional performance while using our product. DeconGel® has been proven effective on a wide variety of decontamination problems, and we have received requests from organizations to keep an ‘at the ready’ stockpile of DeconGel® handy for emergency situations,” said Larry Stack, President and Chief Operating Officer of CBI Polymers. “The problem with beryllium and other toxic substances is that traditional cleaning methods simply don’t work well on rough porous surfaces to remove contaminants from microscopic pores. However, DeconGel® works effectively on both smooth and rough hard surfaces, even with complex three dimensional structures, and can generally reduce contamination to below safe levels with one single application, ” ended Stack. DeconGel® is a safe, non-toxic, peel away hydrogel that requires minimal training to use and has a stable shelf life. While DeconGel® is gaining in use within the Department of Energy sites for remediation of radiological, nuclear, and hazardous chemical substances such as beryllium, it’s also an essential product to keep on hand for hazardous materials (HAZMAT) or Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) first responder units concerned about immediate clean up after a major incident from accidents or acts of terrorism such as a dirty bomb.“Normal chemical cleaning solutions, power washers, and wipes simply will not be able to remove radioactive isotopes from sidewalks, buildings and streets in the case of an RDD or dirty bomb incident, not to mention the huge amount of contaminated waste such methods generate,” Stack said. Development of DeconGel® was funded by the Hawaii Technology Development Venture (HTDV) / Office of Naval Research (ONR). Additional R&D funding was secured through the USAF Force Protection Battlelab, the National Defense Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences (CEROS) under its contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Department of Energy.CBI Polymers is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cellular Bioengineering, Inc., with a focus on developing easy-to-use and “green” peelable polymers for use in radiological, nuclear, chemical, and biological decontamination. CBI Polymers specializes in technology to clean nuclear power plants, research labs, decontamination and decommissioning sites, hazardous chemical spills, mold, and more.
Honolulu entrepreneur Hank Wuh has created a company called SKAI Technologies to function as a “hybrid” business accelerator and venture capital fund for technology startups in Hawaii.
Initial companies in SKAI Technologies’ portfolio will include four startups that have been spun out of Wuh’s seven-year-old company, Cellular Bioengineering Inc., as well as two ventures launched earlier this year.
“We started with Cellular Bioengineering, and initially we really were very focused on a solution for corneal blindness. But then we were creating new companies just about every year,” Wuh, CEO of Cellular Bioengineering and SKAI Technologies, told PBN. “Over the years we evolved and flourished and really started to grow, which wasn’t anticipated. It became obvious that we’re a venture accelerator. We needed a mechanism to spin all these companies out and create new separate entities that can create and generate jobs.”
The name SKAI was created as a combination of the words “sky” and the Hawaiian word for sea, “kai.”
“Where the ocean meets the sky is the horizon, which holds infinite possibilities,” Wuh said. “So we invented the word ‘skai’.”
Wuh said to date the spinouts have been internally funded, “but we have plans to capitalize on the products being made through private equity firms on the Mainland and in Asia.”
The forming of SKAI Technologies to oversee a portfolio of startups could help facilitate the selling of the startups.
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