A team of Cambridge PhD researchers, inventors from IsoChemiX, and industry experts building a unique anti-counterfeit technology to combat fake goods and components has won the 2019 Trinity Bradfield Prize.
IsoTagiT uses advanced molecular tags to identify counterfeits – from medical, aircraft and marine components, pharmaceutical drugs, electronic devices to designer handbags, works of art and even bank notes. The winning team’s solution combines blockchain, organic chemistry and spectroscopy to create a unique signature, which is stored securely and makes authentification available to all.
Cambridge PhD student at Wolfson College, Ben Woodington, explained:
‘Once the technology has been implemented in a supply chain, anyone will be able to take a scan of our tiny tag – the IsoTag – which will be referenced against a secure digital record. It will return a result telling you exactly what that item is, its provenance and whether it is real.
‘With the prize money we intend to first secure the intellectual property of the underlying technology as well as continuing our development towards implementation!’
The inventor of IsoTagiT and Director of IsoChemiX, Dr Sean Bew, said:
This is a truly fantastic opportunity, we are delighted to have received the prestigious Trinity Bradfield Prize, against very stiff opposition! We are really excited and are looking forward to working with and being mentored by the Bradfield Centre.
Their expertise and knowledge will help enormously guiding us through the minefield of commercialisation, helping us to exploit IsoTagiT as well as identify market segments, help us with regulatory aspects and prepare us for what’s to come, especially for wider adoption.
The Trinity Bradfield Prize, established in 2018 by Trinity and The Bradfield at Cambridge Science Park, is open to students and researchers who are keen to pursue early-stage ideas and commercialise their research. At least one member of each team must be at the University of Cambridge.
This year the competition attracted 88 entries, presenting a challenge to the judging panel – Sir Gregory Winter, former Master of Trinity, entrepreneurs and business angels, Robert Swann and Graham Simister, who are Trinity alumni, and Kerry Baldwin, Partner in IQ Capital.
Technology and business specialist on the IsoTagiT team, Puneet Goenka, said: ‘It’s an honour to have been awarded this prize and a validation of the research done by our team. We are excited to the potential of our solution for wider industry adoption.’
The IsoTagiT team receives £10,000 and a tailored programme of mentoring at the Bradfield Centre. The team members are:
- Dr Sean P Bew, Founder-Director of IsoChemiX, which is generating new chemistry-based technologies for the biotech, agritech, medtech, security, and pharmaceutical sectors.
- Dr Enrique Lozano, Managing Director of Elodiz, a company focused on the research and development applications of Raman spectroscopy; and Director of B&W Tek.
- David Izuogu, a PhD student at Wolfson College who using computational techniques to investigate materials for quantum computers, spintronics and information storage.
- Ben Woodington, a PhD student at Wolfson College who is researching the application of bioelectronics in the treatment of neural disease.
- Puneet Goenka, an experienced technology and business leader specialising in blockchain and emerging technologies.
Counterfeiting is not only a huge illegal industry across the pharmaceutical, electronics, fashion, currency, art and chemical sectors but it also poses substantial threats to public health. Fake pharmaceuticals, counterfeit medical devices and semi-conductors used in the military and aviation industry have all been identified in recent years.
Cambridge PhD student at Wolfson College, David Izuogu, said it was easy to see the problem as purely financial – luxury brands losing revenue due to ‘knockoffs’.
‘This is one aspect but counterfeits within the pharmaceutical and electronic sectors pose genuine, global safety concerns. Indeed, the WHO estimate 1 in 10 medical products in developing countries are illegitimate, contributing to hundreds of thousands of deaths a year.’
‘Within electronics, illicit semiconductors have infiltrated legitimate supply chains of the military, aviation and medical sectors and the development of autonomous cars highlights the absolute need for semiconductors of known provenance; component failure in any of these sectors would be catastrophic,’ he said.
Dr Bew said:
The applications of our anti-counterfeiting technology are limitless and diverse; we are particularly interested in the semiconductor industry given its scale and inherent risk but we are equally interested in art works, wine, pesticides…there are so many other areas we can tackle.
Ultimately we want this technology to be used to protect the supply chain and make the world safer and more trustworthy. Counterfeiting is growing at an alarming rate across almost all industries and we want to be able to stop that.