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Using DNA to Foil Counterfeiting: Genes on Your Jeans?

NEW YORK, June 14 - A Taiwanese company is using DNA technology as a new weapon against counterfeit consumer products, fraudulent industrial goods, knockoffs, and fakes of all sorts.


Taipei-based Biowell said it now offers a technology to impregnate labels with "DNA ink" that is almost impossible for counterfeiters to fake.


The tags, loaded with manufactured DNA segments several thousands of base pairs long, can be attached to goods like clothing, electronics, or machine parts.


To check for piracy, the labels can be tested on the spot with reagents that will cause the embedded DNA to quickly change color from blue to pink and back again. The reaction can be repeated at least five times, allowing products to be tracked at different points in the distribution process.


For higher security, the labels can also be sent back to the company for sequencing, providing what Biowell says is "forensic-level authentication."


"Our anti-counterfeit products show that Taiwan can find a home-grown solution to the problem [of copying branded goods] and lead the world in developing protection for international as well as local brands," Biowell chair Jun-jei Sheu said in a statement last month, when the product was released.


Biowell has developed its own method to stabilize and protect the artificial DNA in the ink to keep the labels from losing their punch. "We have tested the product under UV light equal to over 100 years at Florida's sunshine intensity," said Biowell's David Silver. "We can safely claim that in every case the DNA tag will last longer than the product it is attached to."


The company will offer this anti-fraud method for use in a wide range of counterfeitable goods, including documents, lottery tickets, artwork, ID cards, antiques, fine wines, software, and monetary commodities like stocks and bonds. Biowell plans to license the technology to outside manufacturers and printers.


The 25-person company, which also offers genotyping and paternity services, uses PCR technology and a Pyrosequencing machine to sequence the artificial DNA segments.


Biowell, based in Chungho, Taipei County, was founded in 1999 to apply advances in biotechnology to anti-counterfeiting products. The company also distributes Pyrosequencing systems in Taiwan.

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