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VeriChip files for a $45.8-million IPO, underwritten by 'chipped' banker.

Red Herring | December 30, 2005

VeriChip, a company that makes implantable microchips for humans, on Friday filed for a $45.8-million IPO underwritten by a banker carrying one of the chips.

 

The company, which sells a first-of-its-kind radio frequency identification (RFID) tag for implantation, said the underwriters will be the investment banks Merriman Curhan Ford and Kaufman Brothers.

 

In a publicity stunt last September, the chief executive of Merriman Curhan Ford, Jon Merriman, was publicly “chipped” by being injected with the rice-sized tag (see Banker Gets ID Chip Implant)

 

At the time, Mr. Merriman said the chip was an answer to his “increasing paranoia of having the specific provisions in his living will executed” in a worst-case scenario. Mr. Merriman does not have any serious medical conditions.

 

VeriChip also has brought in other high-profile backers. In July, Tommy Thompson, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, joined the company’s board to help promote the chip’s health and security applications.

 

The Delray Beach, Florida-based company is not profitable. It has lost $7.7 million over its four-year lifetime, according to U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filings.

 

Tracking Humans

The RFID market, whose technology commonly tracks goods in a supply chain and streamlines factory processes, is estimated to become a multibillion-dollar industry over the next five years. But whether or not implanting RFID tags in humans will become popular is still highly controversial.

 

VeriChip said its RFID tags only contain an anonymous 16-digit code that can be entered into a database for applications, but which the company said is meaningless if the code is read on its own.

 

An RFID scanner can access a “chipped” individual’s code for use in medical or security situations.

 

In a healthcare setting, hospital staff could use a patient’s RFID chip to pull up the patient’s information quickly, even if the patient were unable to communicate with the caregiver.

 

Several Mexican government officials have received the chip for security purposes to combat kidnapping attempts. The tag was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last October.

 

In September the company said it had started chipping corpses in the hurricane-affected Gulf Coast region (see Katrina Corpses Get ‘Chipped’).

 

The company said it has implanted RFID tags inside 100 corpses for the Mississippi State Department of Health and is also in talks with Louisiana health authorities.


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