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Making Their Mark: Creating Their Legacies

Two EMTM Graduates Collaborate on Finding New Uses for an Emerging Technology

"When you're a researcher, you have a certain sixth sense and you know when you've stumbled onto something good," says Peter Gabriele EMTM '03. That moment came for Gabriele and John D'Ottavio EMTM '03, colleagues at Adhesives Research — and at the time, recent graduates of the technology management program — when they stumbled on the concept that would become their next business venture. After extensive market analysis, the duo, along with two colleagues, Jeff Robertson and Mike Flemmens, established a new division in Adhesives Research called ARmark Authentication Technologies in 2005.

"I saw this new technology, called microtagging, being utilized in agricultural seeds. But I immediately thought of a pill, and wondered if we could adapt a similar method for the pharmaceutical industry," says Gabriele.

D'Ottavio recalls walking down the hallway one day at Adhesive Research headquarters when Gabriele pulled him into a conference room. It was Gabriele who, one year into the program himself, had convinced D'Ottavio to apply to EMTM in the first place. D'Ottavio immediately understood the value of Gabriele's idea. "He showed me what he was thinking about and I was fascinated," D'Ottavio says.

Microtagging is a nanotechnology that enables writing on surfaces as small as 75 microns — less than the diameter of a human hair. It is particularly useful in anti-counterfeit brand protection, as companies can tag their products with what are essentially tiny watermarks.

While other anti-counterfeit and tracking devices are already used in pharmaceutical packaging materials, D'Ottavio and Gabriele recognized that they could apply microtagging technology to imprint covert markers directly on capsules and tablets themselves. "If you're making a product, like, for instance, Lipitor, it makes more sense to print your assurance on the pill itself and not just on the packaging," Gabriele says.

Since ARmark Authentication Techologies was established in 2005, it has sold the technology to write customizable logos in microtext on materials as various as clothing fibers, packaging and currency, in addition to an edible, FDA-compliant method for tagging food and pharmaceutical products. ARmark's tags, which can be inserted in the manufacturing process, make it nearly impossible to reverse-engineer or replicate a tagged product. The company has also developed an optical device to read micro-markings.

Gabriele currently serves as the technical director in the newly formed entity and D'Ottavio serves as regulatory affairs manager, working to identify and mitigate barriers to the adoption of the technology by the pharmaceutical industry.

Both D'Ottavio and Gabriele credit EMTM for giving them the ability to think as entrepreneurs, analyze the technologies from a business perspective and communicate their ideas to executive leadership.

"When you start a new company you have to tell a story — and that story has to be credible. EMTM gave us the solid foundation to back up our proposition. We are now able to support the business with our understanding of emerging technologies and entrepreneurship," Gabriele says.

D'Ottavio describes the endeavor as being as entrepreneurial as "you can get without starting your own company." "It's been a great process of building a new company with the funding and support of a mature entity while developing the technology from the ground up," says D'Ottavio. "We're using a very wide skill set to turn our vision into a commercial reality."

D'Ottavio says EMTM's marketing curriculum allows him to differentiate ARmark's products in a way that brings value to customers. "I came into this business with a better understanding of how to maximize the return on the investment both for our company and for customers adopting the technology. With Peter and me, there's a common methodology and a shared language from the program."

"One of the best things EMTM gave me was a tremendous amount of self-confidence to be a businessperson after having been a lab geek most of my life," Gabriele says.

Last September ARmark was mentioned in a Scientific American story about emerging technologies for avoiding food contamination, and previously the microtagging technology was demonstrated for FDA commissioner Andrew Eschenbach. "It's going to take some time for full adoption of this technology," D'Ottavio says. "What we're doing is fairly new — but there is nothing else like it out there."

ARmark
Peter Gabriele

“When you start a new company you have to tell a story — and that story has to be credible. EMTM gave us the solid foundation to back up our proposition. We are now able to support the business with our understanding of emerging technologies and entrepreneurship.”

Peter Gabriele, MS, EMTM '03
Technical Director
ARmark, Inc.
Glen Rock, PA

John D'Ottavio

“I came into this business with a better understanding of how to maximize the return on the investment both for our company and for customers adopting the technology. With Peter and me, there's a common methodology and a shared language from the program.”

John D'Ottavio, EMTM '03
Regulatory Affairs Manager
ARmark, Inc.
Glen Rock, PA

Please refer to "EMTM Profiles" in this issue for more information on Peter and John.

> Peter Gabriele, MS, EMTM '03
> John D'Ottavio, EMTM '03

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