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U.S.-based company positioned to become a global ‘player’ in explosives trace detection

QS-B220 from
Implant Sciences

In fact, the folks at Implant Sciences support the notion that metal guns, knives or box-cutters no longer represent major threats aboard commercial airliners because cockpit doors have all been hardened (thus reducing the immediate threat to the pilots) and because they would expect the flight crew and passengers onboard a plane to be able to physically subdue a handful of threatening terrorists.

Bolduc pointed to a report issued in November 2011 by the Republican majority staff of two House committees, entitled A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform, which drew a similar conclusion about prevailing security threats.

“TSA’s operations are outdated -- the primary threat is no longer hijacking, but explosives designed to take down an aircraft,” that report observed. “Today, aircraft have hardened cockpit doors, armed Federal Air Marshals and armed pilots. Additionally, passengers and crew offer our first and most effective line of defense. These factors have drastically lowered the risk of a terrorist hijacking using a gun or knife. Consequently, TSA should prioritize its security measures to address the current threat of explosives.”

As TSA has come to recognize the importance of detecting non-metallic threats, it has begun to procure and deploy at U.S. airports what are known as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanners, frequently called whole body scanners. These large portals are not intended to detect metal or explosives; they’re designed to detect “anomalies” of any sort which are concealed on a human body, beneath a traveler’s clothing.

“AIT works great,” Bolduc told GSN, “if you take everything off your body.” Thus, if a traveler empties his or her pockets of all coins, cell phones, keys, wallets, etc., an AIT machine might well detect a substantial item concealed beneath an arm, between the legs, or elsewhere. But those hidden items wouldn’t necessarily contain any explosives.

“If TSA deployed technology that detects explosives,” Bolduc argues, “you wouldn’t have to take off your belts and shoes, and empty your pockets.”

Bolduc and his top managers believe they have taken a number of important steps in recent years to position their Company to become a major competitor in the explosive trace detection segment of the homeland security marketplace.

Management -- After Bolduc was brought in as CEO, he recruited a major player in the explosive trace detection industry, William McGann, Ph.D, first as an advisor to the Company in 2011, then as its Chief Operating Officer and a member of Implant Science’s board of directors in 2012. “Dr. McGann is a pioneer in the explosive trace detection (ETD) industry, having co-founded Ion Track Instruments, the first ETD provider to receive TSA certification,” the Company said in a news release it issued last March. “Ion Track was subsequently sold to GE for $190 million, and became a core product offering in GE’s homeland security portfolio.” Those trace detection products and their related technologies were subsequently sold by GE to Morpho Detection, a unit of the Safran Group, a French technology giant. 

In addition to McGann, who brings a wealth of technology expertise along with decades-old relationships with key technology officials at TSA, Implant Sciences has also recruited industry veterans to fill top sales and marketing, finance, engineering, technology and manufacturing positions. One security industry observer told GSN that he considers Implant Sciences to be one of the best-managed small technology companies around.

Technology -- Essentially, there are two aspects of performing explosive trace detection: First, the detection device must gather a sample of the air from the environment being investigated. Second, the device must segregate the different molecules contained in such an air sample, and determine which of those molecules, if any, are actually explosive materials. As McGann puts it: “You have to sample the world, and then filter that sample.”

Implant Sciences’ approach to that process involves concentrating air particles into its handheld device, so they wind up on a built-in internal filter. An electrical charge is applied to the molecules trapped on the filter, which converts them into ions. Because ions of different materials travel at different speeds -- and those specific speeds are catalogued for all known explosive materials -- the detector is able to identify specific explosives by determining precisely how far they have traveled during a specific period of time.

The benchtop version of its explosive trace detection equipment works in a similar fashion, except a swab, which has been rubbed around in the target environment -- such as on the handle of a piece of luggage, or the outer clothing worn by an air traveler -- is inserted into the machine for analysis.

 

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