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IBM Backs Anti-Counterfeiting Startup

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- IBM (IBM - Get Report) selected a Boston-area startup that aims to rid the world of counterfeit medicine in a business-idea competition.

Sproxil won the Boston installment of IBM SmartCamp, a competition that provides networking opportunities to a select group of technology startups.

To qualify for SmartCamp, a startup must be younger than 3 years old with maximum annual sales of less than $1 million. Throughout the year, IBM will be running one-day SmartCamp programs in Paris, Tel Aviv, Silicon Valley, Boston, Stockholm and London.

At the end of each event, Big Blue chooses a company from each city to attend SmartCamp week in Dublin (Nov. 15), where the worldwide winner will be named. There's no direct cash prize -- the grand prize is a few months of mentorship from IBM officials -- but of the five startups that made it to the finals last year, four received significant funding offers from angel investors.

Sproxil uses cell-phone-based authentication technology to help prevent counterfeit drugs in developing countries. Consumers scratch off a security code on the medicine bottle -- like with a lottery ticket -- and then they text the code to Sproxil from their cell phones. If the code is legitimate, consumers immediately receive a confirmation message. The technology will work with any phone that supports texting.

Drug counterfeiting is, by some estimates, a problem that generates tens of billions of dollars annually for criminals. Recent counterfeiting schemes resulted in sales of fake and ineffective versions of the Genentech (DNA) anti-obesity drug Xenical and the anti-malarial drug Metakelfin, according to the World Health Organization.

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.

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