I love the CSIRO. You probably do, too. I love the idea of a group of really smart people coming together to further our collective knowledge, so to hear that the organisation is being accused of deliberately misleading a major pharmaceutical company by reportedly selling it simple chemicals masked as a complex, in-house anti-counterfeiting technology is something that can take a bit of getting used to. Here's how it all allegedly went down.
According to a Fairfax investigation published today, CSIRO and a company called DataDot worked together to create what they purported to be a top-secret anti-counterfeiting technology that drug companies could put in their medicines to prevent organised crime syndicates or even rival companies from reverse engineering and copying the substances. These syndicates in particular rebrand placebos and dump them on the market for cheap to get cash fast. The DataDot/CSIRO "invention" was meant to be like an encryption of sorts to prevent a drug being copied.
CSIRO worked with DataDot to sell this industry trade-secret technology -- known as DataTrace DNA -- to a company called Novartis who wanted it for the protection of its injectable Voltaren ampules. Little did Novartis know that the "top-secret" gear that the CSIRO and DataDot had sold was allegedly a mixture of cheap chemicals that the two had reportedly bought from halogen tube manufacturers in China.
Nobody's disputing that the technology did what it was meant to, what Swiss-based Novartis has an issue with is that this "top-secret" technology is reportedly available from several vendors around the globe, meaning it can be easily cracked, rendering the DataTrace DNA product as easy to crack as typing "password" into a stupid person's bank account field.
Email chains have been leaked between DataDot and CSIRO executives, who look to be having discussions that indicate a prior knowledge of the tracer being overhyped.
The DataTrace joint venture has been suspended from trading on the stock exchange by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) today, pending further disclosure. In the meantime, it's worth reading the full report on the Sydney Morning Herald. [SMH via Business Insider Australia]
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