Drink Sciences uses nanotechnology to develop date rape drug detector

CEO Dr. Yoav Avidor: We think that the way to market the product is through bars, which will distribute it to their customers with their drinks.

Drink Sciences Ltd. uses nanotechnology to fight date rape drugs. The company was founded on the basis of an invention by Prof. Fernando Patolski, a young professor at Harvard, who is now at the Department of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University, who developed a method which uses nanotechnology for the fast and accurate detection of chemicals in a sample, and then looked for an application. He found it in the discrete detection of date rape drugs mixed in alcohol or soft drinks in day-to-day situations, without the need for laboratories.

The product was developed over three years at the university and commercialized through Ramot at Tel Aviv University Ltd. to a company founded by CEO Dr. Yoav Avidor.

Date rape drug is a generic name for several anesthetic compounds, which are used to spike the drinks of women for the purpose of indecent acts, rape, or robbery. In high dosages, these drugs cause apathy, drowsiness, and unconsciousness.

In Israel, there have been cases of date rape drugs, but at colleges in the US, 200,000 cases of the use of these drugs for rape alone are reported every year, not counting less heinous cases.

"In a market study we conducted in the US, the main market for the product, we asked 150 women if they knew someone who suspected that they had consumed a drink spiked with a drug," Avidor told "Globes". 60% of respondents said yes, and among women aged 25 or less, 72% responded affirmatively. 28.5% of women, and 40% of young women, said that they know victims of date rape drugs. Two-thirds said that they use various methods to protect themselves from having their drinks spiked. Two-thirds don’t let a drink out of their eyesight, and 43% said that they don’t drink a drink they did not see mixed."

Date rape drugs are anesthetics used by the pharmaceutical industry. Users of the drug obtain them illegally, but do not develop them at home, so there is little variability between the different versions, and they can be detected by a single test. However, a test for detecting date rape drugs does not solve the problem of the rape of a victim who has ingested the drug or other drugs such as Ecstasy (or rape that does involve the use of drugs at all), but only the specific use of anesthetics.

The chemical part of the test uses a solvent, which when it comes in contract with a date rape drug, precipitates making the beverage turbid. The product is designed like a drinks mix or cosmetics (such as eyeliner). A woman drops the product into the glass and waits for a reaction. In cases of a dark nightclub, for example, where it is impossible to see whether the drink has become turbid or remained clear, the test includes another trick - it has an LED light. The light diminishes in turbidity. "We found 100% accuracy in the drinks we tested," Avidor said. "The product works on many kinds of drinks."

The product is in the prototype stage. It does not require regulatory approval, such as from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), because the test is carried out on the beverage, not on bodily fluids, so it is not considered a medical test. Avidor is now raising capital for Drink Sciences and he plans to market the product within nine months.

"We think that the way to market the product is through bars, which will distribute it to their customers with their drinks, so that they can relax knowing that their drinks are safe. Another possibility is for the parents of college girls to buy the product before they go off to school," said Avidor.

At a cost of a few dollars per test, Drink Sciences can become profitable. The product will probably be sold through pharmacies, especially in the US, where the problem of date rape is serious.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 3, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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