Saint Mary’s College has been awarded the first patent in the school’s history. The college, along with the University of Notre Dame, received the patent for devices, known as Paper Analytical Devices, that can detect low-quality or counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
Saint Mary’s says the PADs can detect substitute drugs, or "fillers," that may be added in place of an active ingredient in a pill or capsule. The college says the devices could benefit countries that "lack technological and regulatory infrastructure."
The research team, led by Tony Barstis, professor of chemistry at Saint Mary’s and director of the Dual Degree in Engineering Program with Notre Dame, developed a PAD that screens tablets of Panadol, a brand of acetaminophen. "Panadol has long been among the most common pain-relieving drug counterfeited around the world," said Barstis. "The package design is so good, it’s hard to determine whether it’s the genuine medicine or a fake that could contain harmful ingredients."
The project was funded in part by the Jen and Pat Prikkel Fund, which Barstis says helped the team earn the patent and bring the technology closer to market. Saint Mary’s says there are six PAD research projects currently underway that are being funded by the Jen and Pat Prikkel Fund and the Marjorie A. Neuhoff Summer Science Research Communities grants.
The patent was the first issued to Barstis and Marya Lieberman, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Notre Dame. It was also issued to Patrick Flynn, professor of computer science and engineering at Notre Dame, who holds one other patent and has two more pending.