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
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
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
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
"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,"
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,"
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.
"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
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
"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.