Centice wants to stop pharmacy errors
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC. — November 26, 2007 — Various reports suggest there may be as many as 50 million prescription filling errors a year, causing 7,000 or more deaths annually. RTP-based Centice Corp. has developed a tool that could literally take the problem out of the hands of pharmacists.
Centice, which closed on $3 million in Series A round in October from Novak Biddle Venture Partners and The Aurora Funds, also raised $3.5 million from the same investors in 2004. The company launched with $50,000 in seed funding by winning the Duke University Start-up Challenge in 2004.
In 2005, Centice won the NC Council for Entrepreneurial Development's "Spin Out of the Year" award for its patented Duke-derived smart computational sensor technology and also the prestigious R&D 100 award, called "the Oscars of invention," by the Chicago Tribune.
Centice designs and manufactures computational sensors, which enable a new generation of high sensitivity molecular analyzers based on advanced spectroscopy.
Spectroscopy is used in a broad variety of research and process applications, including material identification, quantitative analysis and quality control. Every chemical element displays a distinct spectral fingerprint when it reflects light. The Centice instruments have higher resolution than conventional ones.
"With the technology we licensed from Duke, we capture a lot of light and extract high resolution data with complex algorithms, so you're able to move quickly while keeping the resolution high at a lower laser power," explains Swanson.
Conventional spectrometers use a slit at the entrance to the light dispersing module. In these traditional designs, there is an inherent tradeoff between resolution and light throughput. While spectral resolution increases as slit width decreases, a narrow input slit greatly limits photon throughput and, likewise, measurement sensitivity.
Ray W. Swanson, CEO since 2006, tells TechJournal South that the company's technology, an advanced form of laser spectroscopy that can "fingerprint a drug" rapidly, can replace the current manual method of inspecting pharmacy prescriptions.
So the company is positioning its first product as a prescription verification instrument for use in retail pharmacies or hospital pharmacies.
"There are devastating impacts from putting the wrong drug out," says Swanson. "Today pharmacists do a manual inspection. They look in the bottle and compare the medicine to its description. But whenever you have a manual process, you have the potential for error."
The problem is compounded by a national shortage of pharmacists, industry groups say.
Swanson says Centice plans to sell its instrument at a cost pharmacies can afford. He sees considerable sales potential. "A pharmacy is a fulfillment operation," he notes. "They can't just accept X-percent of errors the way some manufacturers do. We've come up with a methodology that takes the subjectivity out of the process."
Another advantage to pharmacies, Swanson says, is "We think it will improve the workflow. We want to free the pharmacist to be more of a health care professional." That means pharmacists may be able to spend more time talking to customers to make sure they understand potentially dangerous drug interactions, the drug regimen, and so forth. "It places the pharmacist in a strategic role and gets him out of the operations side and into interaction with the customer at the counter."
Swanson says the company's underlying technology has numerous other potential applications, such as screening for counterfeit drugs or liquids in hospital IV bags and solutions, helping to reduce medical errors.
The basic strategy for the company, he says, "centers around medical verification through various types of product configurations.
"We have our arms around one major application (the pharmacy instrument) but we'll start to look at some other areas in 2008.
"The algorithms we've designed to verify something is what we think it is could be looked at in reverse," Swanson says, "to identify something when I don't know what it is." That would be useful if someone brings a patient to the emergency room and says, "They took one of these pills." Putting them in the instrument would identify the drug.
"We have a lot of choices with a platform that's very robust and centered around simple paradigms," says Swanson.
On the Web: www.centice.com