UK innovation that detects drug abuse from people’s fingerprints is set to take off in the United States.

Intelligent Fingerprinting Ltd, the Norwich company that has developed the world-first device, has engaged Dallas-based Smart Start Inc to exclusively market and distribute the product in North America.

Intelligent Fingerprinting is a spin-out from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the distribution deal follows the recent £2m investment in the business from a consortium of private US-based investors.

Smart Start is an industry leader in the US for alcohol monitoring technology and the country’s leading provider of breath alcohol ignition interlock devices (BAIIDs) which prevent drivers from starting their vehicles if breath alcohol is detected.

Intelligent Fingerprinting’s prototype handheld fingerprint drug detection device uses a unique process to detect drug metabolites and other substances contained in fingerprints and enables mobile testing with instant results. Smart Start expects to begin offering the new device in North America in early 2013, subject to regulatory approval.

The new hand-held device will enable testing of fingerprints for illegal drugs and other substances using disposable cartridges. The samples are quick and easy to collect and do not require special handling or biohazard precautions.

The imaging of the fingerprint provides a chain-of-evidence continuity that is almost impossible to cheat. The potential uses for the device are wide ranging and cover testing in the workplace as well as screening drivers at the roadside for drug-driving impairment.

Smart Start has formed a new subsidiary, Smart Sales Inc, to concentrate on marketing the products in North America.

Intelligent Fingerprinting’s business development manager Paul Yates, said: “There has already been considerable worldwide interest in the use of the technology for testing within a wide range of applications, including criminal justice, forensic science, homeland security, as well as institutional testing at prisons and workplaces. But the ability of a hand-held device to carry out testing in-situ brings a whole new range of benefits and opportunities.”

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