Fingerprint-based drug detector receives financial boost

30 January 2014
By Tereza Pultarova
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A British company is developing an innovative device for drug detection from fingerprints

A British company is developing an innovative device for drug detection from fingerprints [Credit: Intelligent Fingerprinting]

A British company developing the world’s first hand-held device capable of detecting drugs in users’ system through their fingerprints has won American funding.

The £750,000 received from a consortium of private US-based investors will allow Intelligent Fingerprinting to move towards the final development stages of a potentially revolutionary device that enables criminal investigators and healthcare workers to perform drug screening before a need to take biological samples. In 2012, the company secured £2m from US backers and almost £700,000 in government-funded grants.

“This additional funding is fantastic news as we enter the final phases of development,” said Jerry Walker, CEO of Intelligent Fingerprinting. “Allowing us to accelerate the device’s introduction to the global market, the investment will be used as working capital to fund late stage product development and to support investment in manufacturing.”

The scanner offers an easy-to-use, non-invasive way of drug-screening that provides accurate results in less than ten minutes. The main advantage of the new device is the elimination of the need for specialist collection arrangements and biohazard disposal facilities associated with conventional drug testing methods involving blood, urine or saliva samples.

One fingerprint is enough for the device to analyse chemicals produced by the body, known as metabolites. Those metabolites can be found in sweat in the fingerprint and could be used to detect substances the person has consumed, including drugs.

Because the technique detects the drug metabolites rather than the drugs themselves, a positive result proves that the person being screened has taken the drug and not simply touched a contaminated surface.  

The device captures a detailed image of the fingerprint during analysis.  If required, this image can be used to confirm personal identity in relation to the test result, ruling out false positives due to sample mix ups.

The global market for drug screening was recently estimated to reach $2.6 billion in 2014, growing at  about 5 per cent per year.

Intelligent Fingerprinting hopes to run a pilot production project by the end of 2014.

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