‘Napkin that knows’: DC college student creates KnoNap to detect drugs in drinks

Glasses of whiskey with ice on black stone table. Top view with copy space (Thinkstock)(Getty Images/iStockphoto/karandaev)

WASHINGTON — When someone slips a drug into your drink and then sexually assaults you or steals your wallet, it’s called a “drug-facilitated crime.” To help prevent that, a local student has come up with a way to find out what could be in your drink before taking a sip.

“In the summer of 2016, while studying abroad in Spain, my friend drugged and assaulted me. It was the first time I actually became aware of the issue and it became very personal,” Danya Sherman, a junior at George Washington University, told WTOP.

After the attack, she took a class called Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, which she said changed her life. The class required students to create a business and enter it into the university’s 2017 New Venture Competition.

Sherman’s creation, KnoNap, was one of the winners. Its slogan: “The Napkin that Knows.”

Danya Sherman, a junior at George Washington University, created KnoNap, a napkin that can tell if there’s a drug in your drink. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

“Each napkin looks and acts like a regular napkin. The only thing is that on each corner, you just take a drop of your drink, and if there’s drug presence indicated, there’ll be a clear color change next to where you put your drink,” Sherman said.

And don’t think KnoNap is just for women: “The issue of drug-facilitated assault … can affect anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.”

She explained, “Our napkin tests for a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Those include Rohypnol, Xanax, Valium — the drugs that are commonly used on and around college campuses as rape drugs.”

“Our product tests for at least 26 of 40 most commonly used drugs as rape drugs.”

The only other product like it that’s currently on the market is a coaster called DrinkSafe, which tests for just two drugs: ketamine and GHB.

Sherman has gone on to receive seed funding from the university and more business help from Halcyon Incubator, which focuses on early-stage social ventures.

Her company is now working with manufacturers, and a Kickstarter campaign is planned for spring. She said the napkin will be available for sale as soon as the end of the year.

In a time when victims of sexual assault are speaking out as part of the #MeToo movement and in the abuse case against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, Sherman is determined.

“What I hope my company is able to push for is social change, greater awareness of the issue, but, at the end of the day, empower individuals to be safer so that no one else has to say, ‘Me Too.'”

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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