Print 25 comment(s) - last by Mint.. on Aug 29 at 12:50 AM

  (Source: Laurel Street/Undercover Colors)
Student-laucnhed startup draws serious investment intention, aims to test for GHB, roofies, and ketamine

There’s bad news out there for individuals looking to spike ladies' drinks with so-called "date rape" drugs such as (RS)-2-(2-Chlorophenyl)-2-(methylamino)cyclohexanone (ketamine), 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) (aka: "Molly"/ecstasy) or γ-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB). Soon women may have nail polish that can change colors when it detects foul play.
The project is the work of a group of students from North Carolina State University (NC State) and other nearby universities.  Its founding members include Duke University PhD candidates Ankesh "Anku" Madan (cited as the company's spokesman) and Tasso Von Windheim, both of whom are NC State grads.  Other members include NC State undergrads Stephen Gray and Tyler Confrey-Malone (listed as CEO on his Facebook page).  Recently, Georgia Institute of Technology student Laurel Street joined the team as Undercover Color's director of social media.

Undercover Colors
Meet the Undercover Color team (left to right): Laurel Street (social media director), Ankesh Madan (spokesman), Stephen Gray (co-founder/engineer), Tasso Windheim (co-founder/engineer), Tyler Confrey-Malone (CEO). [Image Source: Facebook]

To be clear, they haven't actually made this nail polish quite yet.  But they appear to have a clear vision of what they want to make and a potential path of getting there.  The students call their initiative "Undercover Colors".

In a recent interview co-founder and spokesman Ankesh Madan -- now a PhD candidate at Duke University -- recalls:

We [were] all from the same major, in Materials Science & Engineering (MSE). None of us really knew each other before our senior year, but we were all interested in entrepreneurship, and we knew about the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP).  We ended up joining the EEP a couple of months late, and we bonded over the mountain of work we had to do to catch up with the other teams!

NC State has been invaluable to us.  We have been able to use lab space through the College of Veterinary Medicine, which is one of the only locations in North Carolina where we can test DEA Schedule 3 and Schedule 1 drugs. Our main technical advisor, Dr. Nathaniel Finney from the NCSU Chemistry Department, is a world-renowned expert on indicator development and has volunteered his time to help advise us on prototype development.

Undercover Colors

The group's Facebook describes:

In the U.S., 18% of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That's almost one out of every five women in our country. We may not know who they are, but these women are not faceless. They are our daughters, they are our girlfriends, and they are our friends.

While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection. Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.

For our first product, we are developing a nail polish that changes color when it comes in contact with date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB. With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she'll know that something is wrong.

Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught. In effect, we want to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators. We are Undercover Colors and we are the first fashion company empowering women to prevent sexual assault. 

Such technology isn't exactly unprecedented.  Tallahassee, Florida-based DrinkSafeTech markets coasters and business cards that can test for the presence of GHB or ketamine.  The company's products have received widespread media coverage, and some universities have embraced its product as a campus rape-prevention tool.

DrinkSafeTech makes coasters and wallet-size business cards that can detect some date rape drugs.   

However, the company has also received some criticism -- even of the peer-reviewed kind [PDF] -- for allegedly luring people into a false sense of safety, when its products fail to test for some of the most common date rape drugs, such as "Molly" or 5-(2-fluorophenyl)-1-methyl-7-nitro-1H-benzo[e][1,4]diazepin-2(3H)-one (aka "roofies", or less commonly known as "Narcozep" or"Rohypnol").  Also the DrinkSafeTech can lead to hurt feelings or misunderstandings given its relatively conspicuous nature.
By contrast, a nail polish detection kit would be much more discreet; in fact one of its slogans is "empowerment through discreet functional fashion".  And it aims to detect more kinds of drugs, including 8-Chloro-1-methyl-6-phenyl-4H-[1,2,4]triazolo[4,3-a][1,4]benzodiazepine ("Xanax") and the aforementioned "roofies" (Rohypnol).
So far Undercover Colors is seeking crowd sourced funding via online donations portal, which offers both one-time and recurring donation options.  A post from late April indicates that in its first month of having an active online presence, its site drew 275 donors.
The young group is participating in Ground Works Labs, an NC State-affiliated incubator located in Durham, North Carolina.  It's also working with the NCSU Entrepreneurship Initiative (NCSU EI), an NC State service which connects student entrepreneurs with venture capitalists and veteran business advisors.  The group's concept is already picking up interest.  It won the best New Venture Challenge and the Design and Prototype Challenge at the 2014 Lulu eGames, a local startup competition sponsored by the NCSU EI.

Undercover Colors
Undercover Colors drew honors at the Lulu eGames challenge.

Most recently the startup has reached the semifinals of the Kairos Society's K50 competition.
The technology seems far-fetched, but color-changing nail polishes such as heat-based In The Mood and light-activated Del Sol already exist.  Probably the biggest challenge or potential downside is that in this case the polish will need to be in direct contact with the beverage, meaning that it will have to make due without protective clearcoats or other layers to prevent chipping.
And the critics are already out in force.  Some rape advocates are pointing out that a large percentage of rapes both on and off campus are committed by someone the victim trusts.  In that case these tests might not do any good, as the victim might not have thought to use them.
That said, the technology clearly has won over a number of believers; the startup's Facebook page has 23,000+ likes.

Sources: Undercover Colors [website], [Facebook], Higher Education Works

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By brshoemak on 8/26/2014 10:10:29 AM , Rating: 2
And the critics are already out in force. Some rape advocates are pointing out that a large percentage of rapes both on and off campus are committed by someone the victim trusts. In that case these tests might not do any good, as the victim might not have thought to use them.

I fail to see the problem here. Isn't this just one more tool to use for protection? That's like saying well you shouldn't have an alarm system on your house because it won't prevent every single burglary, therefore it's worthless to consider it.

RE: Problem?
By NellyFromMA on 8/26/2014 11:23:42 AM , Rating: 2
I think the more striking thing here is that the author actually coins the term "rape advocate", as if anyone who thinks this "tech" (its actually closer to "vapor tech" because its viability doesn't seem to strong) is somehow an advocate for rape?

Very odd choice of words. Just another reason I head to ExtremeTech more and more.

RE: Problem?
By NellyFromMA on 8/26/2014 11:25:04 AM , Rating: 2
...anyone who thinks this "tech" isn't viable (its actually closer to "vapor tech" because its viability doesn't seem to strong) is somehow an advocate for rape?


...anyone who thinks this "tech" isn't viable (its actually closer to "vapor tech" because its viability doesn't seem to strong) is somehow an advocate for rape?

RE: Problem?
By dgingerich on 8/26/2014 11:48:32 AM , Rating: 4
I agree with you there. It's just like calling those who would prosecute welfare and food stamp fraud as being on a war against the poor, or those who would fight against killing of unborn children as misogynists.

Having a tech like this would be nice, if it were fairly reliable. The problem is that it could lead to false accusations, ruining men's lives just because it detected something incorrectly.

Let's face it, if a man even gets accused of such a thing, and charges are filed, his life is ruined, even if he is found not guilty. I know the two cases of sexual harassment filed against me, even though both were found to be without merit and dismissed before the plaintiff was done stating her case, have had significant effects on my life. (One because I asked one woman out once, and never bothered her again after she turned me down. I was a mobile repair tech, and she was at one of my stops. I certainly never harassed her. I was disappointed, but I would never hurt her for it. The fact that I was never sent back to that location again, and never seen in the area again, was enough to get it dismissed before the trial even ended. The second because I was somehow "looking at her in lewd ways." Gah, I despised that woman and she had the audacity to file a lawsuit against me for something totally absurd. She was fat and ugly and rude. There was NO WAY I was attracted to her at ALL, let alone enough to sexually harass her. The judge even dismissed it outright during the lawyer's opening statement after he made it clear that her accusations were based on how someone may or may not have been LOOKING at her. The judge even fined the lawyer. Either way, both cost me $1200 each due to lawyer fees.) I've been turned down for jobs because those show up in a background check. It's just not right.

I'm by no means an advocate for date rape. Men who would do such a thing need to be castrated and jailed for life. They are predators that need to be culled out of humanity, permanently. Such an attitude is not fixed by imprisonment. They will be a danger to society for as long as they live. However, to accuse an innocent man of such a thing needs to be avoided at all costs.

RE: Problem?
By Mint on 8/29/2014 12:50:58 AM , Rating: 2
Dismissed accusations show up in a background check? Damn. A lot of countries only give access to conviction records during checks.

Do all states operate this way?

RE: Problem?
By flyingpants1 on 8/26/2014 1:53:50 PM , Rating: 3
He meant "rape victim advocates" or "anti-rape advocates".

RE: Problem?
By Indianapolis on 8/27/2014 9:37:48 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. But that's gotta be one of the more unfortunate typos I've come across.

Put's me in mind of the SNL Jeopardy/Sean Connery skit. "The rapists!"

RE: Problem?
By Grimer21 on 8/27/2014 12:52:52 PM , Rating: 3
I'll take anal bum cover for 800 Alex.

RE: Problem?
By rountad on 8/27/2014 2:10:29 PM , Rating: 3
Sean Connery: I've got to ask you about the Penis Mightier.

Alex Trebek: What? No. No, no, that is The Pen is Mightier.

Sean Connery: Gussy it up however you want, Trebek. What matters is does it work? Will it really mighty my penis, man?

Alex Trebek: It's not a product, Mr. Connery.

Sean Connery: Because I've ordered devices like that before - wasted a pretty penny, I don't mind telling you. And if The Penis Mightier works, I'll order a dozen.

Alex Trebek: It's not a Penis Mightier, Mr. Connery. There's no such thing!

Nicholas Cage: Wait, wait, wait.. are you selling Penis Mightiers?

Alex Trebek: No! No, I'm not.

Sean Connery: Well, you're sitting on a gold mine, Trebek!

RE: Problem?
By inperfectdarkness on 8/27/2014 4:12:02 AM , Rating: 3
The only real problem is that this technology is still a band-aid fix. It's only necessitated because there are degenerates who are drugging people. And unfortunately, that's the reality of the world we live in--necessary evils.

Same reason why we have a constitutional right to bear arms. Same reason why we have a military, police, etc. In a perfect world--these things aren't necessary. 6,000 years of recorded human history says that the world isn't perfect--and will never be.

Don't believe the utopian lies. The Russians bought into that idea & their "paradise" (and I use that word ironically) lasted barely 70 years. Just because some Berkeley-ite pundit is trying to espouse it doesn't make it true. ;)

What about men?
By chmilz on 8/26/2014 10:26:09 AM , Rating: 3
No joke, I know far more men who have been been drugged by servers or women at clubs and then had their money stolen than I do women who have been drugged and raped.

So where's the unisex non-nailpolish drug detection?

RE: What about men?
By MrBlastman on 8/26/2014 2:20:14 PM , Rating: 2
So the moral of the story is to not drink or do drugs at all, right?

That works for me. Straight edge for life!

RE: What about men?
By Bobhacks on 8/26/2014 10:20:12 PM , Rating: 2

RE: What about men?
By MrBlastman on 8/27/2014 12:30:09 AM , Rating: 1
And us of the straight edge think the same of drinking. We are at an impasse, Sir. :)

RE: What about men?
By Flunk on 8/26/2014 4:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well, you could just get used to wearing nail polish.

Fantastic Idea, But...
By Shadowself on 8/26/2014 8:46:30 AM , Rating: 2
This is a fantastic idea. If it comes to fruition it will definitely help.

However, the team admits they haven't even come up with the polish yet let alone started any form of testing. Plus, will there have to be different polishes for different drugs? (Test for drug A with your thumb, test for drug B with your index finger, etc.) It seem extremely unlikely that one polish will be able to test and differentiate between a very broad set of drugs. Most of the cards of which I'm aware have different spots on them and each spot tests for a different drug and even then it's only a limited number of drugs.

The nail polish might be ready for the public in two years or twelve. By their own admission there is a HUGE amount of work (and even some basic research) to be done before they have a shipping product. Hell, even if they can get a product to the public that does everything they want it to do, if it costs $100 for a standard nail polish sized bottle then the vast majority of women won't use it.

It seems their announcements and proclamations are a bit early. It is an unfortunate side effect of our current society. Start with the hype, get money, then hope you can fulfill your promises someday.

RE: Fantastic Idea, But...
By michael67 on 8/26/2014 11:03:10 AM , Rating: 2
Most of your concerns could be simply addressed, if they come with a transparent varnish.

That could be used by everyone, apply over there current favorite polish, or can be used by girls/woman that even don't like nail polish.

And that way, they can also apply 2 or maybe even 3 types of test on one nail.

Also they have to pay less attention to contaminates from the different type of color pigment mixed in there solution.

RE: Fantastic Idea, But...
By TSS on 8/26/2014 6:32:38 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like this will be the lastest company to have their stock pumped and dumped *cough*.

False positive...
By Arkive on 8/26/14, Rating: 0
RE: False positive...
By Skywalker123 on 8/26/2014 6:05:52 PM , Rating: 2
This is bad news for Reclaimer. He'll have to go back dating his hand.

Detects Molly?!
By Tunnah on 8/26/2014 7:20:34 PM , Rating: 2
If there was nail polish that detected MDMA I'd be rocking that bad boy dipping it in every drink I could find looking to score some free drugs

The irony...
By EricMartello on 8/27/2014 2:01:46 AM , Rating: 2
The people who developed this test are in no danger of anyone ever wanting to have sex with them...

By przemo_li on 8/27/2014 8:00:50 AM , Rating: 2
"In that case these tests might not do any good, as the victim might not have thought to use them."

Lets hear their opinion how to change something without changing anything...

By GulWestfale on 8/26/14, Rating: -1
RE: good
By MrBlastman on 8/26/14, Rating: 0
"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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