18 Jul Nano prominence: Midwest doesn't take back seat to coasts
Although I have written about nanotechnology in past articles and the role the Midwest plays in the development and roll out of this amazing technology, I have always assumed all my readers knew what nanotechnology was and how it got started.
According to Wikipedia, the term “nano-technology” was first coined by Dr. Norio Taniguchi of Tokyo Science University in a 1974 paper entitled: “On the Basic Concept of Nano-technology” published by the Japan Society of Precision Engineering. In this paper, a first definition was proposed: “Nano-technology mainly consists of the processing of, separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule.”
Today the upward range of scale that incorporates nanotechnology goes up to 100 (and perhaps even slightly higher) nanometers.
Wikipedia further states that this field is multidisciplinary in nature drawing from other fields such as applied physics, materials science, colloidal science, device physics, supramolecular chemistry, and mechanical and electrical engineering. (I would say and draws from other fields?) This is about ultra-miniaturization at a scale that most of us have difficulty imagining!
So what is a “nanometer?” We are a society that thinks in inches, feet, yards, miles, etc., unlike our European counterparts who are metric in nature and think in meters, kilometers, millimeters, etc. A yard is slightly less than one meter, with a millimeter being one thousandth of a meter. This level we can all grapple with – but now it gets interesting!
If a millimeter is one thousandth of a meter, the next level of scale downward is the micrometer, one thousandth of a millimeter. A nanometer is one thousandth of a micrometer, or one millionth of a millimeter. Wow – do we get an image of tiny?
I don’t know if any of you read, as you were growing up, Marvel Comics and the stories of “The Astonishing Ant-Man” and, about a scientist (Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym) who created a gas in his lab that allowed him to shrink to the size of an ant (and ride an ant) while retaining his normal size strength; he also created a cybernetic interface to communicate with ants. He, then, created later another gas that allowed him to grow several sizes larger than a normal human: Giant-Man (same person).
In one of the issues of Ant Man, I remember this amazing potion which enabled him to reduce his size even smaller than an ant and he enters into an atomic world that sets the mind really wondering. This is the image that comes to my mind when I think about nanotechnology.
But what does that mean to us in real terms? Perhaps some size comparisons:
• A human hair is 50 micrometers: a nanometer is 50,000th of a hair width!
• An apple is 76 millimeters!
• A grain of sand is three millimeters!
• A red blood cell is three micrometers
• The influenza virus is 20 nanometers in size
• The width of DNA is 2.5 nanometers!
• An atom (3 across) is one nanometer!
So why all the ruckus about miniaturization? Well, the science of minuscule molecules is having a tremendous impact on biotechnology, medical devices, electronics, energy, materials, automotive industry, consumer products, and industrial products (as well as the military).
In a report published in 2005 called “The World Nanotechnology Market 2005,” the authors estimate that the demand for nanoscale materials, tools, and devices would reach $28.7 billion by 2008. Furthermore, they estimate that the U.S. Government is already spending over $3 billion per year in this arena. And they are not alone, as industrial giants such as GE, Samsung, Hitachi, DuPont, IBM, and Intel spent an estimated $3.8 billion in 2004.
The authors of the study make note of the fact that while the U.S. is leading the way; other parts of the world are also not far behind. U.S. companies spend about 46 percent of research monies, followed by Asian companies (36 percent of the total), the Europeans (17 percent), and the rest of the world’s 1 percent.
Another research report called “Nanotechnology: A Realistic Market Evaluation” estimates that the global demand for nanotechnology was $7.6 billion in 2003 and is growing at a rate of about 31 percent/year. The authors come up with a similar projection for 2008 as the previous report. According to the authors (Business Communications Company, Inc.), the nanomaterials segment including silver nanoparticles used in photographic film, catalytic converter materials, and carbon black rubber filler, represent almost 98 percent of existing sales but will have shrunk to about 75 percent of the total by 2008.
The growth of nanotools ($1.2 billion or 4.3 percent of 2008 projected sales) and nanodevices ($6.0 billion or 21 percent share of the 2008 total) will make up the remainder.
The following chart documents the growth of each segment:
Global Nanotechnology Market
|Technology||2003 ($B)||2008||Annual Average Growth Rate percent|
Source: BCC, Inc., February, 2004
An even more recent report published this year by the Freedonia Group and discussed in the June 2007 edition of Medical Product Outsourcing magazine, focuses specifically on the implications of nanotechnology in the healthcare arena and is predicting that by the 2011 the impact will be a huge $53 billion in annual sales. This number wills more than double by 2016 when nanotech healthcare sales are expected to reach $110 billion.
The application of nanotechnology is being evidenced in diagnostics (DNA probes, nano-sized monoclonal antibody labels), and nanoparticle formulations for both drug delivery and imaging.
The largest growth will be seen in medical devices, which had nanotech-related sales of $400 million in 2006, but are expected to grow to $5.2 billion by 2011 and $16.2 billion in 2016.
Not to be forgotten is the area of nanomaterials which has wide applications in areas such as bone cement, burn dressings, dental repair, and restoration products. Additionally, nanoimplants are being used in orthopedics and other applications which include tissue and neuron regeneration.
Healthcare nanotech and the Midwest
We are fortunate to have the national Nanotechnology Trade Association (the NanoBusiness Alliance) located right here in Chicago, leading the nanotech bandwagon, perhaps an indicator of the strength of the Midwest’s role in research in this field. Northwestern’s prowess is probably most noteworthy as it is spinning out companies in Illinois from its two nanotech institutes (one of which is nanobio-focused) and include:
• Nanosphere and NanoInk (both based on Chad Mirkin technologies)
• Nanotope (based on Sam Stupp technologies)
• Polyera (based on Tobin Marks’ technologies)
• Ohmx (based on Tom Meade’s technologies), and more recently,
• NanoIntegris (based on Mark Hersam’s technologies).
Both Nanosphere and NanoInk lead the way with funding of nanotech companies. Other promising Illinois nanotech research is at:
• The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (the drug delivery company NanoDisc, and the nanocoatings company Carbide Derivative Technologies), and
• Argonne National Labs (Advanced Diamond Technologies).
Illinois already has the publicly-traded (NASDAQ) Nanophase Technologies with a market cap of about $113 million, raised $10.6 million in a private placement in July, and actually had revenue of $2.9 million for its first quarter this year (although it had a net loss of $1.2 million). (I feel like this should be reworded a bit, but I’m iffy on how) This company creates nanomaterials for both consumer and industrial products.
Still another Illinois nanotech company is Arryx, which was acquired by publicly-trade Haemonetics, but is still alive and well in Chicago with is optical-trapping products.
Perhaps one of the nanotech leaders in receiving funding is Michigan’s NanoBio, a company developing vaccines and infectious diseases products with technology from the University of Michigan. This company has received $3.2 million in Department of Defense monies, and $6.3 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Last year it raised $30 million from the Perseus Fund, a prestigious biotech investor. This year it also received an additional $2.4 million from the State of Michigan’s 21rst Century Job Fund.
Ohio is also very active, with Ohio State University having received $13 million in 2004 from the National Science Foundation for its new Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. Case-Western University is also spinning out companies such as the nanomaterials company Advanced Nanotech Solutions. Also in Ohio are:
• Ohio University’s Center for Affordable Nanoengineering Polymeric Biomedical Devices
• University of Dayton’s National Composite Center (which is also a collaboration with the Air Force’s Research Laboratory) and its Center for Multifunctional polymer Nanomaterials and Devices
In fact, Ohio is replete with nanotech activities at many universities and I am probably giving it short shrift by just mentioning a few.
Likewise, there are other “buckets” of nanotech activities and research happening throughout the Midwest.
Unlike the biotech industry, where the Midwest is playing catch-up to the coasts and is still some 5-10 years behind, the Midwest’s nanotech industry is robust and at par with developments by other leading areas in the U.S.
See you soon!
Previous articles by Michael Rosen
• Michael Rosen: Midwest life science stocks kept sizzling in Q2
• Michael Rosen: The Right Brain: A neurological solution to the flattening world
• Michael Rosen: The state of global biotech: An Ernst & Young perspective
• Michael Rosen: Brazilian bio-industry should impress American investors
• Michael Rosen: Olympics of biotechnology has international flavor
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission. It is not meant to be a recommendation to buy or sell stocks!
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