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10/21/2005 7:29:23 PM
Nanotechnology Business Idea Competition Winners Announced

Two early-stage companies today each won $75,000 in the second annual International and North Coast Nanotechnology Business Idea Competitions held on the campus of Case Western Reserve University.

AeroClay of Cleveland and Keystone Nano of State College, Penn., beat out four other finalists in the competitions. AeroClay, which is being formed by Case professor Dr. David Schiraldi, won the North Coast competition for the best business idea from Northeast Ohio and Keystone Nano, a medical imaging and drug delivery company based on research done at Penn State University, won the international competition. A panel of judges featuring representatives of venture capital firms, corporations and nanotechnology researchers trimmed the field of 13 semifinalists to six on Thursday, October 20.

The finalists presented to the judges and a crowd of about 30 onlookers this morning.

AeroClay is the name Schiraldi has given the product he developed by freeze drying clay. The resulting material is 98% air and 2% clay, according to Schiraldi, who is an associate professor in Case's Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering. AeroClay can be used in packaging or can be covered in a polymer to create lightweight materials for automobiles or other products.

Schiraldi, who has taught at Case for nearly four years after working in the chemical industry for more than 20 years, said the $75,000 will be used to hire a market development employee who can help transform his idea into a business.

"I considered myself kind of a long shot in the competition because we were the least far along in the process of forming a company around the idea," he said.

Keystone Nano also is in the early stages of building its company.

"We'll leverage this to help the business catch up to the science," said Jeff Davidson, chief executive of Keystone Nano. "The science is outstanding."

Winning the International Nanotechnology Business Idea Competition provides important validation for its technology, said Mark Kester, chief medical officer for Keystone Nano. Kester is also a professor at the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Penn.

"We've got some momentum now and we're going to take advantage of it," Kester said.

The company has developed Molecular Dots that can deliver both drugs and imaging solutions inside a patient's body. The Molecular Dots are so tiny that they don't prompt a response from the body's immune system and can work more effectively than other internal drug delivery or imaging systems.

The company is pursuing funding from the federal government and outside investors. It also is also pursuing partnerships with pharmaceutical companies that would use the Molecular Dots to deliver their drugs.

Organizers of the competition include three Case Western Reserve University programs: The Institute for Management and Engineering (TiME), the Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program (STEP), and InTICE: the Institute for Technology Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship; and NorTech's Nano-Network. Sponsors include ASM International, Nanofilm, Ferro Corp., Case, Forest City Enterprises, The Partnerships for Innovation Program of the National Science Foundation and the Joseph P. & Nancy F. Keithley Foundation.

"Last year the contestants were good, but this year they were even better," said Cyrus Eaton, director of InTICE. "The judges had to make some very hard decisions." More than 30 companies from eight countries entered the competition.

Three of the finalists were from Northeast Ohio.

"The local entrants went toe-to-toe with the rest of the world," said Gary Wnek, co-director of The Institute for Management and Engineering (TiME) at Case Western Reserve University. "Their presentations were excellent."

Last year's top winner of the competition, QD Vision of Watertown, Mass., recently raised about $6 million in venture capital from Highland Capital Partners.

"I wouldn't be surprised at all if a few of our finalists today are able to attract venture capital in the near future," Wnek said.

The other finalists were:

  • Columbus NanoWorks Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, a developer of magnetic nanoparticles to be used to help detect tumors and isolate stem cells.
  • NanoMark LLC of Cleveland, a developer of an in-home asthma monitoring system using nano sensors.
  • NanoPatch AC of Twinsburg, a developer of a drug delivery system that uses a patch applied to the patient's skin.
  • Reacta Corp. of Philadelphia, a maker of nanomaterials that can improve the performance of several products, including laundry detergents.

"The quality of all of the semifinalists made the selection of the winners very difficult," said Chris Mather, executive director of the Nano-Network and vice president of NorTech. "This competition highlights the many entrepreneurial ideas emerging from nano research labs around the globe and in Northeast Ohio. NorTech's mission is to stimulate innovation in the region and this competition helps do that, while establishing the region as a global leader in the nanotechnology arena."

Indeed, Kester of Keystone Nano said winning the international competition provides an added incentive for Keystone to explore opportunities to work more closely with researchers at Case and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and with other nanotechnology companies in Northeast Ohio. Kester was an associate professor at Case in the 1990s.

The competitions concluded NANO Week, a week-long series of events and programs organized by NorTech's Nano-Network.

Other Headlines from Nano-Network ...
 - Ohio Nanotech Industry Leaders to Present at Nano Convergence Conference in New Mexico
 - Nano Week Reaches Out to High School Students
 - Global Experts Convene in Cleveland to Discuss NanoMedical Applications for Patient Care
 - NanoMedicine Summit Returns to Cleveland, September 25-26
 - Report Highlights Ohio's Nanotechnology Strengths and Growth; Calls for Collective Statewide Alliance

Other Headlines from NorTech ...
 - Northeast Ohio Develops Plan to Become Global Epicenter of Flexible Electronics Industry
 - NorTech Transitions Nano-Network Initiative to PolymerOhio
 - Nanotechnology Business Idea Competition Winners Announced
 - Eight Countries Represented in International Nanotechnology Business Idea Competition
 - International Nanotechnology Business Idea Competition Names Judges

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