I attended today the USPTO partnership meeting on “additive manufacturing” (aka 3D Printing). The content was excellent, covering both talks and demonstrations. Companies presenting included 3D Systems, Stratasys, Shapeways, MakerBot, Ex One, and EOS. Several hundred persons attended, including in person and via the web, and the room energy was excellent throughout the three hours plus of content. The 3D printing revolution appears to be on after some 25 years of gestation.
MakerBot is featured in this article. Ex One is featured here.
The USPTO should be congratulated for putting together this informative, exciting event. The USPTO did not give too much overview of how patenting impacts this, but patenting was frequently noted by the speakers, and the PTO did note that there have been around 6,800 patent applications filed in this area over the past ten years. I was particularly struck by the concept that 3D printing can in some cases make objects which cannot be made by other ways. I would also like to hear more about nanoscale aspects of this including materials, interfaces, and nanoscale resolution. One of the driving forces for nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing is additive manufacturing. This recently published U.S. patent application from Lockheed Martin (2013/0018243) shows use of carbon nanotubes and uses the phrase “bio-additive manufacturing.” We will continue to monitor patent filings in this important area as 2013 progresses.
In 3D printing, an object is built up layer-by-layer under computer controlled manufacturing. The talks today covered the historical development including the original stereolithography, laser sintering, binder-on-powder printing, and inkjet 3D printing. Today, some of the companies are trying to “democratize” the technology and introduce this wonder to the general public. With 3D printing, everyone can become a creator. Recently media reports on 3D printing have been abundant. Hopefully, venture capital will be interested. Stay tuned!
The Economist, one of the more worthy media sources these days for connecting technology to larger society, included a page on nanomedicine in its special issue, “The World in 2013.” (page 128). The article is by Professors Omid Farokhzad and Rober Langer and focuses on bio nanotechnology from BIND Biosciences. BIND recently announced a development deal with Amgen. Professor Langer is a founder of BIND and Professor Farokhzad also works closely with BIND (according to the BIND Web page). The technology is for polymeric nanoparticles which smartly carry a payload. Cancer treatment is a leading application. Patenting is an important part of the company strategy per their press releases and web page content.
The attached link has information for an upcoming nanomedicine conference in April in Spain.
Lets hope more deals are in the works for nanomedicine as 2013 moves ahead into the market place from academic research. Venture capital is an important part of this story.
Miracles of nature and science are all around us, and one of them is the abilty of an organism to heal itself. If skin is cut, the skin can repair itself. Can that concept also be applied to synthetic materials and coatings? One company trying to commercialize the concept is Autonomic Materials, Inc. (AMI). In the AMI approach, microcapsules are used. AMI recently announced it completed a series B financing, with Phoenix Venture Partners investing. In these tougher economic times, including tough times for venture capital, AMI’s receipt of investment is good news. More about Phoenix Venture Partners can be found in attached link.
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.
Lerner also has a new book, “The Architecture of Innovation: The Economics of Creative Organizations.”
The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) is participating in a statement responsive to the “No More Solyndras Act.” The gist is to not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” in “fixing” the government programs that led to the Solyndra problems.
NVCA also reports life sciences investing (biotech and medical devices) was down in Q2, the fourth quarter in a row for decline (see press release on home page for nvca re Q2).
In comparison with life sciences, cleantech was modestly up and featured some of the largest deals in Q2, falling within the “Industrial/Energy” group, including investment deals with Fisker Automotive, Bloom Energy, Harvest Power, and SunRun, Inc. Clean technology is said to cross industries – remains a bit of a mystery what is an industry versus a sector – distinction without difference? Many technologies cross industries. Just explain why a particular classification system is chosen. For many years, it has been said that ”nanotechnology is not an industry,” but I am not sure what is the point of saying that as many things seem to not be industries (e.g., cleantech)? Have not heard a good explanation despite asking a number of persons who make the point.
Also, good to see the Wall Street Journal provide a nanotechnology commercialization story recently. A nanotechnology renaissance could be, indeed, a boom to the economy if the government and venture capitalists can figure out a better model for investing in the physical sciences.
One of the most interesting and important nanotech high tech companies is Cambridge, Mass. platform company, Nano-Terra, which has a history now over five years and traces back to George Whitesides, per their webpage (www.nanoterra.com). This week, Nano-Terra received an additional round of funding for $17.2M per SEC filings and media reports. Nano-Terra, briefly, seeks to commercialize micro and nanotechnologies like soft lithography and partner with large corporations. The company reflects many of the pivotal issues surrounding nanotech commercialization as discussed at least week’s NNI at Ten meeting in Washington D.C. These include, for example, university licensing, government funding, partnering with large corporations, the platform approach to corporate business planning, venture capital, etc.
Another is who is getting rich from nanotechnology!?
Whitesides also is co-author of the wonderful nanotech book, No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale, 2009 (co-author: Felice C. Frankel).
To read more from the Nano-Terra current Web page:
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Last year, Josh Lerner published another provocative book, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed – and What to Do About It (Princeton University Press, 2009). Why bring this up now? Two reasons include:
- The ten year anniversary of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is at hand, and
- The thirty year anniversary of the Bayh-Dole Act is also at hand. Both are subject to “celebrations” in Washington DC in coming days and weeks. Both involve government playing strong roles in innovation and jobs.
In addition, the recent election further makes for important political debate about the role of the government in stimulating job creation. Will the new Congress continue to fund nanotech? How long will cleantech be a ”darling” of politicians and venture capitalists (or flavor of the month)?
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This week’s feature: a VC arm of big pharma, Lilly Ventures, led a new round of $24 M in financing for nanopharmaceutical company Cerulean Pharma (Cambridge, MA-based), per media reports. The round was termed a C-round, and the total raised to date is reported to be $56 M.
One of the central ideas for this technology is to limit harmful side effects through nanoscale approaches to drug delivery and efficacy. For example, if a prior drug was not put into the market because of side effects, those side effects could be reduced or eliminated by nanoscale engineering. Hence, the nano approach can help recoup past investments in developing drugs which seemingly “failed” due to side effects.
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The 9th Annual Washington D.C. Roundtable, the official public policy forum of the NanoBusiness Alliance, will take place on March 15 – 17, 2010, with informative legislative meetings as well as networking among nanotechnology industry leaders.
In particular, the March 17th Federal Roundtable session is expected to draw business leaders, investors, venture capitalists, scientists, engineers, government officials and visionaries who are driving the success of nanotechnology. The full day agenda will stimulate dialogue between NanoBusiness Alliance Members and Federal Agencies, explore the latest on regulatory policy/impending regulatory actions and federal research initiatives, and familiarize guests with federal product approval authorities, processes, and innovation strategies, with an emphasis on pending developments.
For those navigating through public policy to advance their nanotechnology, this forum has proved to be a helpful and insightful tool. Also, stay tuned for developments on the annual NanoBusiness Alliance Conference slated for September 27 – 29, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.
Venture capital investment and government grants fuel the greentech explosion in the United States. However, due to the recent economic downturn, money from venture capital has been dwindling to a trickle. In fact, many predict that as much as half of U.S. venture capital firms will disappear as a result of the current economic downturn (House Select Committee on Energy Independent and Global Warming – testimony of Robert T. Nelsen July 29, 2009).
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