Local firm gets grant to develop self-reporting pills

Eric Buffkin, president of eTect, shows off a microchipped pill in this Oct. 3, 2011 file photo.

Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 4:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 4:37 p.m.

A local company has received a $1.2 million grant to develop pills with tiny sensors that when taken send a signal to a monitor worn by the patient.

eTect, headquartered in Jonesville and with an office in Melbourne, received the Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

eTect president Eric Buffkin said the NIDA is interested in the technology to track patient adherence to treatments for drug addiction. However, the self-reporting pills can be used with any dose medication.

The company uses tiny sensors developed by Convergent Engineering and the University of Florida College of Engineering. The sensors include microchips the size of a grain of sand that are incorporated into capsules.

A tiny circuit uses stomach fluids to harmlessly generate a very small amount of energy to power up the sensor, sending a simple digital message to a monitor, according to a news release.

The capsule dissolves and the sensor components pass through the patient's digestive system.

Since its founding in 2009, eTect has received about $3.6 million in private funding and $300,000 in grants. The company has 11 employees and contract workers.

Buffkin said eTect has conducted clinical studies with "very good" results and plans to have the first commercial product available to pharmaceutical companies in 2014.

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