Congratulations to Carnegie Mellon University for breaking ground on a new energy/nanotech-related building last weekend, as they report on their university webpage:
“Under sunny skies that were later punctuated with daytime pyrotechnics, the excitement was palpable as Carnegie Mellon University broke ground for Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall — future home to the university’s work in nanotechnology, biomedical engineering and the new Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.”
Located in western Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon also addressed issues during the ground breaking events about how to handle shale gas and water:
Presenting the four top energy topics voted on by the audience were CMU’s:
- Jeanne VanBriesen, Shale gas development: what’s the story with water?
- Baruch Fischhoff, How will human behavior affect energy futures?
- Ed Rubin, Clean coal: oxymoron, or path to sustainability?
- Jay Whitacre, Can low cost batteries help us to use more renewables and build fewer transmission lines?
Good to see: high throughput, inexpensive DNA sequencing is being featured on NPR this week in a series entitled the $1,000 Genome. Many of the technologies for this revolution in sequencing, of course, relate closing to or directly are nanotechnology (e.g., nanopore, microfluidic, and/or lab-on-a-chip technologies). Personalized medicine depends on it. More generally, the interface between biology and electronics is one of the most compelling arguments for further development and commercialization of nanotechnology and, more particularly, bio nanotechnology. Another leading example is allowing partially blind or blind persons to see better with artificial retinas.
A brief check of the nanotechnology class 977 patent literature shows IBM has activity in this area. See, for example, their recent US patent publications 2012/0199483 (published August 9, 2012); 2012/0193237 (published August 2, 2012); 2011/0308949 (December 22, 2011); and 2011/0279125 (November 17, 2011).
Hopefully, angel and venture capital investment will also flow to these exciting areas. This appears to be turning out to be one of many virtually secret “killer apps” for nanotech. For example, the NPR series does not delve too much into how the sequencing is done (per the series, sequencing done in a ”black box”). Hopefully, despite the secrecy, the federal and state governments, including those who fund and run the NNI, are watching.
The September 3, 2012 issue of C&EN discusses what it calls an “onslaught of nanotech drugs coming down the pike” for FDA review. See article entitled “Mapping Nanotech Drugs’ Landscape,” pp. 46, 48.
The FDA is generating a database for nanotech drugs and currently has 158 entries according to the article. The leading application area is cancer treatment (38%). Most are developed to be administered intravenously (56%). The leading types of formulation are liposomes (39%) and nanoparticles (27%).
The FDA will hold a public workshop in the coming months to get input from stakeholders for how to improve the review process.
The US patent literature confirms the role of nanotechnology innovation in cancer treatment. Of the currently published nanotechnology class 977 patent filings (there are 13,814 of them), 1.9% of them refer to cancer in the title or abstract. Considering the breadth of nanotechnology and bio nanotechnology, this is a significant fraction. Also, 4.3% of them refer to cancer in the title, abstract, or claim. Finally, 14.3% of them mention cancer in the patent somewhere.
Interesting recent article by Professor Josh Lerner on venture capital investing, including a reference to advanced materials (“The Narrowing Ambitions of Venture Capital,” September 6, 2012, Technology Review). Lerner presents a seemingly pessimistic view of the current venture capital world noting sub-themes of the limited scope of investment objectives, too many boom-and-bust cycles, and “mercurial” public markets. (side note: The comments posted to date are generally negative.)
For advanced materials, Lerner writes about explaining the concentration of venture capital into certain sectors, “One answer is that venture funds have done much better in categories where the innovation cycle is short, such as media and software, than in areas like advanced materials and biotechnology, where the time frame for success is longer than the eight-to-10-year life of the typical fund.”
Lerner concludes: “…the venture capital model is no panacea for innovation. The boom-and-bust cycle, the mercurial effects of public markets, and the narrowing of its objectives have made it something far less substantial.”
Hopefully, needed investments in advanced materials, nanotechnology, cleantech, medical devices, health, and the like will be healthy and not be allowed to be sacrificed in the name of a better social life on the internet while physically stagnant in front of a computer screen.
The September 2012 major leage baseball pennant races are in high gear. I checked to see if baseball is by chance appearing in the nanotechnology patent literature. Apparently, the leading example is for better composite baseball bats. Some years ago, Easton had developed a Stealth CNT baseball bat (CNT, carbon nanotube). Zyvex contributed nanotechnology to the effort. This embedded link has some updated commentary on wooden, aluminum, and composite bats. Interesting how these can become “regulated” markets – need to protect the pitchers from rocket line drives off the bats. Also, perception exists that better bats would be some sort of undesirable performance enhancer. Some MLB teams, however, clearly need a lot more that advanced technology bats to make the playoffs and justify spending on the ticket prices.
Patent filings which refer to hydraulic fracturing are on the rise. In fact, the number appears to have almost doubled in the past five years. This is based on a review of the published patent applications at the USPTO web site. In 2012, pro-rated as of today, there should be about 473 patent applications publishing. In 2007, that number was only 246. From 2008-2010, the number rose to about 355 each year, and then rose dramatically in 2011 to 421.
Nanotechnology continues to be a source of innovation in this and related technologies. See, for example, Abstract below US Patent Publication 2012/0190598 published July 26, 2012 to Pure Liquid Solutions, LLC, on “Metallic Nanoparticle Biocide in Industrial Applications.”
We confirm that a nanotechnology patent filing explosion continues at a record pace in 2012 as we enter the final trimester of the year. On July 8, 2012, we reported that the USPTO was on pace to publish a record number of class 977 nanotechnology patent applications (over 4,000). This was also noted in past postings and reflects a solid trend. We checked again today and confirm that the current projection to end of the year remains at over 4,000 (4,043). The broad variety of technology in the filings is startling and in places unconventional. For example, US Patent Publication 2012/0221268 (the last application to publish) relates to quantum computing and lists Microsoft as assignee. Hydraulic fracturing is increasingly referred to in this body of patent literature as there are 16 such publications this year which is double the number compared to the prior three years combined (e.g., Halliburton’s US Patent Publication 2012/0220504).
Hopefully, as many of these patent filings as possible will serve useful commercial purposes and facilitate investment from the private sector as well as from government. The licensing of these patent filings can be analyzed for use in policy formulation and business development. Certainly, the on-going miniaturization of electronic devices – a hot patent topic these days with the Apple v. Samsung developments - will require more developments in nanotechnology including, for example, better batteries, power management, semiconductors, and displays. Clearly, many of the patent filings find applications related to energy, electronics, and bio nanotechnology.
In addition, hopefully the quality of filings remains solid despite the pressures to file applications. Finally, (hopefully!), patent reform will function to improve the patent system and encourage investment, particularly as it applies to nanotechnology inventions.
The recent, large judgement against Samsung in the Apple v. Samsung patent litigation has again brought patenting to the front pages of American news media. In that context, the September 16, 2012 and March 16, 2013 critical dates for when fundamentally new patent law takes effect takes on added importance. It is crucial for the innovation community to master the new patent law and PTO regulations. We will be presenting a timely panel discussion Wednesday morning September 5, 2012 in Boston regarding updates in patent reform including critical topics such as the new first-to-file system, what remains of any “grace period,” Inter Partes Review, Post Grant Review, and the like. The panel is part of the Nanomanufacturing Summit 2012 in combination with the annual meeting for the NanoBusiness Commercialization Association.
We stress, in particular, that while the March 16, 2013 date for the start of the first-to-file system seems a “long way away” today, it is not. Innovators need to plan now to adopt procedures and patent programs so as to be ready for March 16, 2013 (i.e., need to hit the ground running!).
Good to see advanced manufacturing and nanotechnology in the popular press again (see link). This was the lead, front page article in Sunday’s forum section of the newspaper I read … bought an “old-fashioned” hard copy to read it!