Applied DNA Taking it to Swedish car thieves

Applied DNA Sciences CEO James Hayward: Catell knows infrastructure.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Let this be a warning to Swedish car thieves: Applied DNA Sciences is on the case.

Through Safesolutions AB (bring your Swedish or try the Google Translate version), the Stony Brook-based supply-chain, anti-counterfeiting, anti-theft, product-genotyping and product-authentication specialist is now applying its flagship SigNature DNA products to luxury cars imported into Sweden.

Safesolutions, Applied DNA Sciences’ Swedish distributor, has inked a contract with Swedish importers that will mark a minimum of 2,000 imports per month with the biotech’s DNA-based anti-theft solutions, known in Sweden as “Smart DNA.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Applied DNA Sciences Chairman and CEO James Hayward noted only that the Safesolutions/automotive importer contract is for two years and involves just one European luxury auto brand.

The deal, however, represents a “significant portion of our total European business,” according to Hayward, continuing what has been “great success in Sweden from the beginning.”

Calling the Scandinavian country “one of our early adopters,” the CEO referenced a Swedish “tripartite group” – including lawmakers, law enforcers and commercial interests – that formed in response to a national rise in crime, and after an “extensive review” in 2011, voted to adopt and promote the Smart DNA platform.

Applied DNA Sciences CIO Judy Murrah

Applied DNA Sciences CIO Judy Murrah

Applied DNA Sciences then selected Gothenburg-based Safesolutions to be its regional distributor – a wise choice, according to Chief Information Officer Judy Murrah, who noted the distributor has helped the manufacturer develop “not just auto-marking applications but other asset-marking applications throughout the country.”

“As the collaborations between insurance companies, police and municipalities have gotten stronger, our technology and the results have become more widespread,” Murrah told Innovate LI.

The nature of that tripartite group – which included retailers and insurers, in addition to government and police representatives – was critical to Applied DNA Sciences’ ability to build Swedish momentum, Hayward noted, especially the participation of insurance providers.

“We see insurance endorsements as a critical component of establishing the infrastructure that lets security-platform DNA technology do what it needs to do,” Hayward noted. “Obviously, we need the endorsement of police and law enforcement, but we also need the endorsement of insurance companies.”

In the case of the new anti-auto-theft contract, high-value components in luxury cars are being tagged with Smart DNA markers endorsed by both regional law enforcers and Swedish insurance giant IF, a large-enterprise insurance solutions provider.

The program is designed to reduce both thefts and consumer insurance costs by deterring would-be thieves. Marked cars are affixed with an unmistakable badge that warns thieves Smart DNA is in play – and word is spreading, Hayward noted, about the product’s phenomenal success as both a deterrent and a prosecutorial weapon.

To wit: A reported 80 percent reduction in car thefts through existing Safesolutions Smart DNA contracts, according to Hayward, and a 100-percent prosecution rate when an Applied DNA Sciences-related theft goes to trial – 105 prosecutions, 105 convictions.

“If you are a thief and you read about our conviction rate and you see a sign warning you that a home or automobile is protected by our Smart DNA markers, it might give you pause,” Hayward said. “And if you’re an insurer, your hope becomes that the process of DNA marking will lower your incident rates and your payment rates, which will alter your profitability.”

While the new Safesolutions contract focuses on importers, other Swedish interests are catching the Smart DNA vibe. According to Murrah, Swedish auto dealers are expressing interest, while IF has begun a campaign promoting Applied DNA Sciences products to Scandinavian homeowners.

“You can see there’s a lot of momentum behind the initiative,” Murrah noted. “That’s one of the things that makes the product so attractive.”

Meanwhile, Applied DNA Sciences – which in February reported a relatively slow first quarter for its Fiscal 2016, but rebounded in May with a new $2.5 million blanket purchase agreement with the federal government – continues to develop multiple verticals.

The biotech’s customer base in the textile industries is growing “very quickly,” Hayward said, and the head of Applied DNA Sciences’ new pharmaceuticals security program – former Pfizer executive Bob Miglani – has “aggressively hit the ground running.”

His company is still “deeply involved” with government clients –  in October, it announced a deal with the Department of Defense to apply SigNature DNA protocols to the nation’s missile-defense system – but “right now, our biggest emphasis is on our B2B business,” Hayward noted.

And the endorsement of major insurers like IF can only help that cause, according to the CEO.

“That’s important to our business in the United States,” Hayward said. “Right now, we have the support of over 100 (domestic) municipalities and police departments, and we need U.S. insurers to come along.”