29 February 2024

Identifying and tracing fake drugs

Pharma Research

Else Holmfred from IF is postdoc at Stanford University where she develops methods, not only to identify fake drugs, but also ultimately to trace where in the world the drug has been produced.

Postdoc Else Holmfred is a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University.
Postdoc Else Holmfred from Department of Pharmacy is a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University.

Fake drugs or drug counterfeits are an increasingly big and severe problem worldwide. Drug counterfeits are rarely, if ever, subject to any quality control, and the active drug compounds often have been substituted by non-active substances. The illegal drug industry causes more than 250.000 deaths each year, but tracing the origin of a specific product is complicated.

With her research project, Else Holmfred seeks to develop a method for identifying and tracing the origin of specific drugs in order to separate drug counterfeits from branded drugs. She explains:

”The idea is that every drug has a unique chemical fingerprint, which can be determined by trace elements and isotopic ratios. We are also working on the assumption that isotopic ratios, especially stable isotopes, e.g., hydrogen, oxygen, and strontium, can be used to identify the geographical origin of where the drug counterfeits have been produced. These new experimental methods can be applied to pharmaceutical companies, drug authorities, and across scientific disciplines.”

Else Holmfred received the “Novo Nordisk Foundation Visiting Scholar Stanford Bio-X Fellowship” of 3 mill DKK in September 2023. She was previously supported by the Carlsberg Foundation with the “Internationalisation Fellowship” for her research on the same subject.

During the last half year of her postdoctoral employment, Else Holmfred will return to IF where she will work on integrating the new experimental methods she has developed at Stanford University to IF.

At IF, Else Holmfred collaborates with Associate Professor Stefan Stürup from Pharmaceutical Physical and Analytical Chemistry. At Stanford, she collaborates with Professor Page Chamberlain (Earth and Planetary Sciences), Professor Katharine Maher (Earth System Sciences), and Professor Alfred Spormann (Civil and Environmental Engineering).