On the Up
Morrisville, N.C. – March, 2008 – The Federal Drug Administration estimates that more than 1.3 million people are injured annually from medication errors. Malpractice statistics show there are more drug-error deaths each year than from breast cancer, AIDS or traffic fatalities. The costs associated with these errors? At least $29 billion per year.
With increasing demand for prescriptions (almost 4 billion annually), limits on the number of available pharmacists and manual visual methods for final inspection, "the potential for errors will very likely increase," notes Ray W. Swanson, president and CEO of Centice Corporation. The drug verification and safety company develops products to make dispensing medication more accurate.
Its first product will go to market later this year. PASS Rx will help pharmacists reduce errors by scanning the contents of a filled prescription bottle prior to handing it off to the customer. "Our instrument contains sensor systems allowing the pharmacist to perform a chemical check of the contents of the bottle and then verify whether it is correct by comparing that ‘fingerprint' to the ‘fingerprint' of the correct drug stored in our proprietary database," Swanson explains. The scanning technology was patented in early 2006.
In addition to purchasing the instrument and software, pharmacies will pay a subscription fee to access a proprietary database containing the majority of oral solid pharmaceuticals in a pharmacy's everyday workflow. "Given the broad applicability of our technology to other formats, like liquids in IV solutions, we plan to extend this model to other medication formats in the future," Swanson adds.
The company was founded in 2004 after a team led by co-founder David Brady, Addy Family Professor at Duke University and leader of the Duke Imaging and Spectroscopy Program, won the Duke Startup Challenge. "Early work at Centice validated the raw technology out of Duke by creating a series of enhanced spectrometers," Swanson explains. "Use of these instruments gained the company additional visibility and ultimately led to market-based discussions around the potential to tackle the drug error problem."
The competition included $50,000 in seed funding, giving Centice the cash it needed to get off the ground. The following year, it won CED's Spin-Out of the Year award, gaining more attention from investors.
"Our relationship with the Council for Entrepreneurial Development has given us needed exposure in our earlier stages of development," Swanson says. "Our visibility at past CED Venture and Tech conferences has been positive. The events certainly attract strong regional and national investors and partners who are interested in our technology and its application."
Late last year, Centice closed an $11.3 million Series B round led by S-Group Direct Investments Ltd., and founding investors, The Aurora Funds and Novak Biddle Venture Partners. Additional investors included Innovation Ventures, along with several other individuals.
Swanson, who has over 20 years experience of bringing new products and technologies to market, has been at the helm since September 2006. The company currently has 30 employees and expects to grow by another 30 to 40 percent this year. The new hires will scale sales, marketing, and support, and continue to develop the product pipeline.
"The Centice team is passionate about what we are doing, and that our products will have positive impact to empower healthcare professionals to further secure the safety of their patients," Swanson notes. "We are privileged to have some of the brightest minds in the Triangle working diligently to bring this unique technology to fruition."