Category Archives: investment

Nano and the NASDAQ

First, a caveat: I know very little about stock markets and investing so I’m not offering any comments about the quality of the investment advice offered in an April 23, 2014 article by StreetAuthority for the NASDAQ stock market website. The article is being featured here for informational purposes and because it focuses on nanotechnology (Note: A link has been removed),

A couple of months ago, the fund planners at Invesco PowerShares closed the book on one of the most unusual chapters in investing history, announcing a move to shut down the PowerShares Lux Nanotech Portfolio exchange-traded fund ( ETF ). A lack of interest was the main culprit in its demise.

… For many investors, the move signaled the end of the decade-long hype around nanotechnology stocks. Back in 2006, with nanotech mania in full bloom, Businessweek predicted that this emerging technology would represent a $2.6 trillion industry by 2014 .

That prediction overestimated the industry’s potential by at least $2.5 trillion.

StreetAuthority goes on to analyse some specific ‘nano’ stocks,

… A quick snapshot of where the remaining nanotech stocks trade in relation to their all-time highs paints a sobering picture. With the exception of FEI Co. (Nasdaq: FEIC ) , not one of these firms lived up to the hype.

[downloaded from http://www.nasdaq.com/article/is-the-nanotech-craze-over-not-for-these-2-stocks-cm346626]

[downloaded from http://www.nasdaq.com/article/is-the-nanotech-craze-over-not-for-these-2-stocks-cm346626]

Just when you think all is lost the author finds reason for optimism (Note: Links have been removed),

Yet just as most investors have written off the notion of nano-investing, the underlying technology is being seeded in a widening range of applications. Many industrial firms such as 3M (NYSE: MMM ) already derive solid recurring revenue streams from nanotechnology and are spending heavily on new products , which bodes well for the companies that make the tools to help further this technology’s development.

FEI, for example, is expected to reach the $1 billion revenue mark this year for the first time. FEI’s equipment helps other firms analyze and develop nanotechnology-based products and chemistries, mostly in the semiconductor industry. The company has delivered on the promise of nanotech, but shares appear fully valued, as top-line growth is around 10% and shares trade for more than 20 times next year’s earnings.

A more intriguingly valued stock is Flamel Technologies (Nasdaq: FLML ) , a biotech firm that has developed a range of drug delivery methods to deliver nano-sized particles into the bloodstream. Though this firm could never live up to the nanohype of a decade ago — and a decade of annual operating losses will wilt any investor’s confidence — shares are starting to rebound as key products start to reach the market.

It’s nice to be able to supplement the information one gets from government reports on commercializing nanotechnology with some ‘stock market’ analysis. As for whether or not this is good advice, caveat emptor (buyer beware). I can say that the author does not seem to have a solid grasp of the term ‘nanotechnology’, e.g. “… a new and much-hyped technology known as graphene holds the same promise , and in a few years we may see huge sums of money chase after graphene companies, just as we saw with nanotechs.” [emphasis mine] Generally speaking, graphene is considered to be part of the ‘nanotechnology enterprise’.

Canadian nanobusiness news bitlets: NanoStruck and Lomiko Metals

The two items or ‘news bitlets’ about Canadian nano business don’t amount to much; one concerns a letter of intent and the other, an offer of warrants (like stock options) which likely expired today (March 13, 2014).

It seems NanoStruck Technologies is continuing to make headway in Mexico (as per my Feb. 19, 2014 posting about the company’s LOI and gold mine tailings in Zacatecas state) as the company has signed another letter of intent (LOI), this time, to treat wastewater in the region of Cabo Corrientes. From a March 11, 2014 news item on Azonano,

NanoStruck Technologies Inc. (the “Company” or “NanoStruck”) announces the signing of a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the town of El Tuito to use the Company’s NanoPure technology to treat wastewater from the municipality of Cabo Corrientes in Mexico.

The parties are in dialogue for the treatment of household residual water, which contains food, biodegradable matter, kitchen waste and organic materials. The Company’s NanoPure solution uses chemical-free processes and proprietary nano powders that can be customised to remove such contaminants.

The March 10, 2014 NanoStruck Technologies news release (which originated the news item) link on the company website leads to the full text here on heraldonline.com (Note: Links have been removed),

Homero Romero Amaral, President of the Municipality of Cabo Corrientes said: “NanoStruck’s NanoPure technology is a proven solution for the treatment of residual water in an environmentally friendly way. Its low energy consumption means it also maintains a low carbon footprint.”

Bundeep Singh Rangar, Interim CEO and Chairman of the Board said: “We are privileged to be given the opportunity to work with the Cabo Corrientes municipality to create a long-term residual wastewater treatment solution.”

El Tuito is the capital of Cabo Corrientes, a cape on the Pacific coast of the Mexican state of Jalisco. It marks the southernmost point of the Bahía de Banderas (Bay of Flags), where the port and resort city of Puerto Vallarta is situated.

The Municipality and NanoStruck have commenced negotiation of a definitive agreement regarding the use of the NanoPure technology and hope to complete a binding agreement within 90 days.

My next bitlet concerns, Lomiko Metals and its short form prospectus and offering. From the company’s March 7, 2014 news release (also available on MarketWired),

LOMIKO METALS INC. (TSX VENTURE:LMR) (the “Company” or “Lomiko”) is pleased to announce that it has obtained a final receipt for its short form prospectus (the “Prospectus”) in each of the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, which qualifies the distribution (the “Public Offering”) of (i) a minimum of 6,818,182 units (the “Units”) and a maximum of 27,272,727 Units of the Company at a price of $0.11 per Unit, and (ii) a maximum of 7,692,308 flow-through units (the “Flow-Through Units”) of the Company at a price of $0.13 per Flow-Through Unit, for minimum total gross proceeds of $750,000 and maximum total gross proceeds of $4,000,000.

Each Unit consists of one common share of the Company (each, a “Common Share”) and one-half of one common share purchase warrant (each whole warrant being a “Unit Warrant”). Each Flow-Through Unit consists of one Common Share to be issued on a “flow-through” basis within the meaning of the Income Tax Act (Canada) (each a “Flow-Through Share”) and one-half of one common share purchase warrant (each whole warrant being a “Flow-Through Unit Warrant”).

Each Unit Warrant will entitle the holder thereof to purchase one common share of the Company (the “Unit Warrant Shares”) at a price of $0.15 per Unit Warrant Share at at any time before the date that is 18 months following the closing date of the Public Offering. Each Flow-Through Unit Warrant will entitle the holder thereof to purchase one common share of the Company (the “Flow-Through Unit Warrant Shares”) at a price of $0.20 per Flow-Through Unit Warrant Share at at any time before the date that is 18 months following the closing date of the Public Offering. The Public Offering will be conducted on a “best effort” agency basis through Secutor Capital Management Corporation (the “Agent”), pursuant to an agency agreement dated March 6, 2014 (the “Agency Agreement”) between the Company and the Agent in respect of the Public Offering.

Pursuant to the Agency Agreement, the Company has also granted an over-allotment option to the Agent, exercisable for a period of 30 days following the closing of the Public Offering, in whole or in part, to purchase additional Units and Flow-Through Units in a maximum number equal to up to 15% of the number of Units and Flow-Through Units respectively sold pursuant to the Public Offering. In connection with the Public Offering, the Company will pay the Agent a cash commission equal to 8% of the gross proceeds of the Public Offering and grant compensation options to the Agent entitling it to purchase that number of common shares of the Company equal to 6% of the aggregate number of Units and Flow-Through Units issued and sold under the Public Offering (including the over-allotment option) for a period of 18 months following the closing date of the Public Offering, at a price of $0.11 per common share.

The Company is also pleased to announce it has received conditional approval from the TSX Venture Exchange for its previously announced concurrent non-brokered offering of up to 15,346,231 flow-through units (the “Private Placement Units”) for additional gross proceeds of $2,000,000 (the “Private Placement”). The securities underlying the Private Placement Units will be issued on the same terms as the securities underlying the Flow-Through Units to be issued under the Public Offering. The Company has agreed to pay to Secutor Capital Management Corporation a finder’s fee of 8% in cash and the issuance of a warrant to purchase the number of common shares of the Company equal to 6%, exercisable at $0.13 per share for 18 months from the date of issuance. The securities to be issued under the Private Placement will be subject to a four-month hold period from the closing date of the Private Placement.

The net proceeds from the Public Offering and the Private Placement will be used by Lomiko primarily in connection with the exploration program on the Quatre-Milles East and West mineral properties (Quebec), for business development and for working capital and general corporate purposes. In particular, the proceeds of the flow-through shares under the Public Offering and the Private Placement will be used by the Company to incur eligible Canadian Exploration Expenses as defined by the Income Tax Act (Canada).

Closing of the Public Offering and of the Private Placement is expected to occur on or about March 13, 2014, or such other date as the Agent and the Company may determine. The TSX Venture Exchange has conditionally approved the listing of the securities to be issued pursuant to the Public Offering and the Private Placement. The Public Offering and the Private Placement are subject to customary conditions and the final approval of the TSX Venture Exchange.

The Units, the Flow-Through Units and the Private Placement Units have not been, nor will they be, registered under the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “1933 Act”), and may not be offered, sold or delivered, directly or indirectly, within the United States, or to or for the account or benefit of U.S. persons unless the Units, the Flow-Through Units and the Private Placement Units are registered under the 1933 Act or pursuant to an applicable exemption from the registration requirements of the 1933 Act. This press release does not constitute an offer to sell, nor it is a solicitation of an offer of securities, nor shall there be any sale of securities in any state of the United States in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful.

You’re on your own with regard to determining how good an investment this company might be. The company’s March 10, 2014 newsletter does point to two analyses (although, again, you’re on your own as to whether or not these are reputable analysts), The first analyst is Gary Anderson (self-described as a Investor, trader, researcher, and writer- exclusively in 3D Printing Stocks.). He writes this in a Dec. 27, 2013 posting on 3DPrintingStocks.com,

I spend a great deal of time looking for what I believe are legitimate, undiscovered stocks in the 3D printing space because I believe that’s where the major gains will be over a 3-6 month period as they undergo discovery by the broader market.

The little-known penny stock [Lomiko Metals] I’m introducing today has legitimate upside potential for 3D printing investors based on four factors:

  1. The market for their product
  2. Current and potential future value of existing assets
  3. Supply and demand imbalance predicted
  4. Entrance into 3D printing materials market with an established leader

….

3D printing investors looking for a materials supplier as part of their 3D printing portfolio may want to consider Lomiko Metals.  I believe there is limited downside risk at current levels due to the intrinsic value of the company’s hard assets in their Quatre Milles graphite property, and potential for significant share price appreciation due to the four factors discussed above.

Graphene has extraordinary potential as a game-changing material for 3D printing.  Early movers like Lomiko Metals in partnership with Graphene Labs could become the beneficiaries of this amazing material’s potential as it becomes commercialized and utilized in 3D printed components and products that contain revolutionary properties.

Disclosure:    I am long shares of Lomiko Metals.  I received no compensation from Lomiko Metals or any third party for this article.

Russia’s nanotechnology efforts falter?

The title for Leonid Bershidksy’s May 16, 2013 Bloomberg.com article, Power Grab Trumps Nanotechnology in Putin’s Russia, casts an ominous shadow over Rusnano’s situation (Note: Links have been removed),

The projects, known as Rusnano and Skolkovo, were meant to propel Russia’s raw-material economy into the technology age. They involved multibillion-dollar government investments, the first in nanotechnology and the second in a new city that would become Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley. They were supposed to provide the infrastructure and stability required to attract large amounts of foreign investment.

Now, both have become targets in Putin’s campaign to demonstrate that he’s being tough on corruption and mismanagement of government funds. As a result, their chances of succeeding are looking increasingly remote.

Trouble came in April [2013], when the Accounting Chamber, a body charged with auditing government spending, accused Rusnano of inefficient management in a report that received ample coverage on state-owned TV. It said that Rusnano had transferred about $40 million to shell companies and pointed out that a silicon factory in which Rusnano invested about $450 million was not functioning and was about to be declared insolvent. The report also highlighted the state company’s 2012 losses of 2.5 billion rubles ($80 million) and the 24.4-billion-ruble (about $800 million) in reserves Rusnano had formed against potential losses from risky ventures.

Anatoly Medetsky’s Apr. 29, 2013 article for The Moscow Times provides more insight into the situation,

The government’s Audit Chamber on Friday [April 26, 2013] accused state-owned Rusnano of multiple infractions in a blow to the high-tech corporation’s chief, Anatoly Chubais.

The chamber’s critical conclusions followed President Vladimir Putin’s reproof of the company during a live call-in show the previous day.

Auditors made their statement after examining Rusnano’s records in response to a request by Chubais’ political nemesis, the Communist Party.

“The audit’s materials attest that Rusnano’s performance was inappropriate to attain the goals that it was entrusted with, which are the development of the national nano industry,” the Audit Chamber said in a statement.

Auditor Sergei Agaptsov said separately that Rusnano is unlikely to achieve the goal of 300 billion rubles in annual sales of nano-tech products by the companies it co-owns in 2015 — the target that the government set for the company, Interfax reported.

I’m sorry to read about Rusnano’s difficulties especially in light my first piece about it where I compared the Canadian effort unfavourably to, what was then, a relatively new and promising organization in my Apr. 14, 2009 posting. About seventeen months later, officials with Rusnano signed a memorandum of understanding with John Varghese, CEO and Managing Partner of Toronto based venture capital firm, VentureLink Funds as noted in my Sept. 14, 2010 posting. Nothing further seemed to come of that agreement.

I have one last thought about Rusnano’s current travails, will they have an impact on US commercialization efforts? In my Oct. 28, 2011 posting where I was contrasting nanotechnology commercialization efforts by the US, Spain, and Rusnano, I mentioned this deal Rusnano had made with two US nanomedicine companies,

Then RUSNANO announced its investments in Selecta Biosciences and BIND Biosiences, from the Oct. 27, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

BIND Biosciences and Selecta Biosciences, two leading nanomedicine companies, announced today that they have entered into investment agreements with RUSNANO, a $10-billion Russian Federation fund that supports high-tech and nanotechnology advances. [emphasis mine]

RUSNANO is co-investing $25 million in BIND and $25 million in Selecta, for a total RUSNANO investment of $50 million within the total financing rounds of $94.5 million in the two companies combined. …

The proprietary technology platforms of BIND and Selecta originated in laboratories at Harvard Medical School directed by Professor Omid Farokhzad, MD, and in laboratories at MIT directed by Professor Robert Langer, ScD, a renowned scientist who is a recipient of the US National Medal of Science, the highest US honor for scientists, and is an inventor of approximately 850 patents issued or pending worldwide. Drs. Langer and Farokhzad are founders of both companies.

Ripple effects, eh? Rusnano was very active internationally.

ETA June 14, 2013:  Nanowerk has a June 13, 2013 news item, which updates the situation with the news that Rusnano has opted out of presenting an ‘initial public offering’, aka, listing itself on a stock exchange in 2015 and will instead attract private investment.

Goodish article for beginners—Pangaea Ventures on the state of nanotechnology

Purnesh Seegopaul, General Partner, Pangaea Ventures Ltd., headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, has written a Jan. 21, 2013 posting, The State of Nanotechnology, for the company blog, which offers a good primer on nanotechnology along with a bit of a sales pitch,

Nanomaterials are of particular interest and at Pangaea Ventures, our focused approach on advanced materials gives us an exceptional grasp of leading-edge innovations and emerging companies developing and commercializing nano-enabled products. Engineered nanomaterial building blocks include inorganic nanoparticles, nanofibers, nanowires, quantum dots, nanotubes, nanoporous materials, dendrimers, plasmons, metamaterials, superlattices, metal organic frameworks, clays, nanocomposites, and the carbon-based nanotubes, graphene, fibers, fullerenes, and activated materials. These nanostructures are incorporated in bulk forms, coatings, films, inks, and devices. Graphene, the latest addition to the nanotech toolkit not only garnered the 2010 Nobel Prize (Geim and Nuvoselov [sic]) but also projected to extend Moore’s law in nanoelectronics. Nanobiomedical applications would allow targeted drug delivery in cancer treatment. Of course, nano-enabled products are expected to be competitive in terms of cost, performance and safety.

I do have a problem with Seegopaul’s stance on intellectual property (IP); I reported on the nanotech IP bonanza (4000 in the US for 2012)  in my Jan. 4, 2013 posting,

Companies need to understand that intellectual property is an important consideration and the IP landscape is getting busy. US patent publications in the 977 nanotech class established by the USPTO are expected to reach 4000 in 2012.

Tim Harper, Chief Executive Officer of Cientifica (the company is cited in Seegopaul’s posting) isn’t particularly enthusiastic about patents either, from Harper’s Jan. 15, 2013 posting about graphene (a nanomaterial) on the Cientifica blog, Insight,

The UK has a number of companies producing decent quality graphene – a prerequisite for any applications – and the history of nanotechnology shows us that filing huge numbers of patents is no guarantee of commercial success.

The Cientifica mention in Seegopaul’s posting was made in the context of government funding,

Nanotechnology enjoys generous funding support. Cientifica recently estimated that governments around the world invested $67 billion over the last 11 years and projected $0.25 trillion in investments from all sources by 2015! [emphasis mine] The USA is expected to spend about $1.7 billion in 2012 and $1.8 billion has been requested for 2013. I expect that nations will continue to pour significant funding into nanotechnology.

Tim Harper gave an interview about  his company’s report Global Funding of Nanotechnologies and its Impact that was published in my July 15, 2012 posting.

Seegopaul’s posting is a good introduction, despite my concern over his IP stance, to nanotechnology but the title does seem to be stretching it a bit. Panagaea Ventures has been mentioned here before (May 14, 2010 posting) in the context of a local Vancouver-based smart window company, SWITCH Materials, which was founded by Neil Branda who was himself mentioned here in a Jan. 15, 2013 posting about the Canadian government funding of the Prometheus Project; a global innovation hub at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

You say nanocrystalline cellulose, I say cellulose nanocrystals; CelluForce at Japan conference and at UK conference

In reading the Oct. 14, 2012 news release from CelluForce about its presence at conferences in Japan and in the UK, I was interested to note the terminology being used,

CelluForce, the world leader in the commercial development of NanoCrystalline Cellulose (NCC), also referred to as Cellulose Nanocrystals (CNC),[emphases mine] is participating in two  upcoming industry conferences:  the ‘Nanocellulose Summit 2012’ in Kyoto, Japan on October 15, 2012, and ‘Investing in Cellulose 2012’, in London, UK, on November 5, 2012.

All of the materials from Canadian companies and not-for-profits have used the term nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) exclusively, until now. I gather there’ve been some international discussions regarding terminology and that the term cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) is, at the least, a synonym if not the preferred term.

Here’s more about the conference in Japan (from the CelluForce news release),

The 209th Symposium on Sustainable Humanosphere: Nanocellulose Summit 2012’ welcomes the world’s top scientists and large research project leaders involved with nanocellulose to present on each country’s current status and prospects concerning nanocellulose research and industrialization.

What:                  CelluForce – What do we do?

Who:                    Richard Berry, Vice President and Chief  Technology Officer, CelluForce

When:                 Monday, October 15, 2012, 4 p.m. JST

Where:                 Kyoto Terrsa Venue, Shinmachi Kujo Minami-ku,
Kyoto, Japan (Kyoto Citizen’s Amenity Plaza)

I found out a little more about the conference Dr. Richard Berry will be attending on the Nanocellulose Summit 2012 webpage on the Kyoto University website,

The world’s top scientists and large research project leaders involved with nanocellulose (cellulose nanofiber (CNF) [sic] and cellulose nanocrystal (CNC or NCC) ) brought together. They will talk about each country’s current status and prospects concerning nanocellulose research and industrialization.

You can find more details, including the agenda, on the conference webpage.

Here’s more about the investment-oriented conference taking place in the UK,

In its second edition, ‘Investing in Cellulose 2012’ is a global conference on specialty cellulose, organized by CelCo. The company focuses primarily on the specialty cellulose business including the organization of cellulose training courses as well as advisory and consultancy to the industry.

What:                  Nanocrystalline technologies: Bringing Innovation to the Market

Who:                    Jean Moreau, President and CEO, CelluForce

When:                 Monday, November 5, 2012, 2:30 p.m. BST

Where:                The Royal Horseguards Hotel, 2 Whitehall Court Whitehall, London SW1A 2EJ, United Kingdom

I have found an ‘Investing in Cellulose 2012‘ conference webpage (of sorts) on the CelCo website (Note: I have removed some of the formatting),

Based on the success of 2011 specialty cellulose conference and encouraged by a 92% return intention response we are pleased to announce that Investing in Cellulose -2012 Conference will take place in London on November 5th.

A cocktail will kick off the event the preceding night and close around 18:00 of November 5th.

So please SAVE THE DATE in your calendar and contact us HERE

 We have taken into account your wishes and suggestions for this second year event and some of the changes will include:

  • Antitrust lawyer attending meeting allowing larger participation esp. from USA.
  • New topics to allow ether and viscose market to be better covered. Technology section during the day.
  • Seat in lunch accommodations and air condition.
  • Larger china representation.
  • More downstream value chain participation.

We will share later this year the Agenda but feel free to let us know if there were any particular topics you would like us to cover or you would like to present.

The most I could find out about the UK conference organizer is that  Celco Cellulose Consulting is a Swiss company founded by two partners.

RUSNANO and 12BF’s clean energy investment fund

After the late June 2012 announcement that the Russian government was selling its shares in various resource- and commodity-based national enterprises as well as 10% of its stake in RUSNANO (my June 25, 2012 posting), this seems an interesting development. Sally Bakewell in a July 18, 2012 article for Bloomberg.com mentions a new Rusnano venture (Note: I have removed links),

Rusnano Capital LLC teamed up with New York-based I2BF Global Ventures to invest $150 million in nanotechnologies for Russia’s agriculture and water industries.

Nanotechnology, which deals with matter on a scale comparable to the diameter of a strand of DNA, can be used to remove pollutants and salt from water, improve soil fertility and boost crops. Drought, still affecting nine regions in Russia, has damaged grains on 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of land this year, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

The July 18, 2012 news item on Opalesque offers this detail,

Rusnano Capital (RNC), the Russian government-owned nanotechnology investment company, and international technology investment group I2BF Global Ventures have announced the launch of the I2BF-RNC Strategic Resources Fund to invest in later-stage nanotechnology companies. The seven-year fund launches with a $53m commitment from its LPs with a target fund size of $150m.

Its remit will be to invest in international nanotechnology that has applications of value within the Russian Federation, with a focus on the resource sector as well as water and agriculture.

“We are delighted to partner with Rusnano Capital on our first late-stage venture fund expanding on I2BF’s existing investment expertise,” says Ilya Golubovich, Managing Partner of I2BF Global Ventures (right). “… The opportunities to roll out nanotech applications and also production facilities in Russia are widespread and we will be using our global footprint to channel the best technologies into this market.”

4th assessment of the US’s National Nanotechnology Initiative (found some info. about Canada in the rept.!)

It seems there a number of reports concerning the US National Nanotechnology Initiative and their efforts and responses to the PCAST 2010 recommendations (I commented on another of their reports in my Dec. 13, 2011 posting). This fourth report/assessment was submitted by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and focuses on efforts from various government agencies to follow recommendations from that 2010 PCAST assessment and set of recommendations.

According to the April 27, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

PCAST found that the Federal agencies in the NNI have made substantial progress in addressing many of the 2010 recommendations that were aimed at maintaining U.S. leadership in nanotechnology. One of the primary goals of the NNI is to stay ahead of heavily-investing competitors such as China, South Korea, the European Union, and Russia. Overall, PCAST concluded that the NNI remains a successful cooperative venture that is supporting high-quality research, facilitating the translation of discoveries into new commercial products, and ensuring the Nation’s continued global leadership in this important field.

The PCAST assessment particularly commends the expanded efforts of the NNCO [National Nanotechnology Coordination Office] in the area of commercialization and coordination with industry, and the NNCO’s release of a focused research strategy for addressing environmental, health, and safety (EHS) implications of nanotechnology. In addition, the assessment recognizes NNI’s strong and growing portfolio of research on the societal implications of nanotechnology, nanotechnology education, and public outreach.

Dexter Johnson at his Nanoclast blog on the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) website comments in his May 1, 2012 posting,

Okay, pat on the back, job well done…uh, wait, there are still some new recommendations that PCAST would like to see addressed.  You can find them in the PDF of the full report on page vii. They fall into the areas of strategic planning, program management, metrics for assessing nanotechnology’s commercial and societal impacts, and…wait for it…increased support for EHS research.

Additional support for EHS research might be a required element for every PCAST report in the future. More interesting to me, however, is this continued emphasis on improved “metrics for assessing nanotechnology’s commercial and societal impacts.”

Dexter goes on to observe that many countries and corporations are interested in better metrics regarding  nanotechnology and its impacts and hints that he has a few ideas for better metrics.

I’ve looked at the report and found, to my surprise, mention of Canada. In analyzing the US NNI efforts, they also compare US government funding and corporate to that in other countries. On page 14 (print version; p. 30 PDF) of the PCAST 4th Assessment of the NNI, there’s a table which shows the top 10 countries for spending on nanotechnology,

As you can see, Canadian funding has been relatively flat throughout 2008 – 2010. It appears to have decreased slightly in 2009 and remained the same in 2010.

Aside: I’d dearly love to know how they sourced their data. A couple of years ago, a Canadian Member of Parliament (Peter Julian) asked for similar figures and received some 80 pages of Excel spreadsheets from various department listing any number of research projects that had been funded. (I’d asked Julian’s parliamentary assistant for a copy of the government’s response to his question, which is how I came to see that mess of paper.)

For anyone familiar with the Canadian scene (industrial research in Canada is rare), this next chart won’t be any surprise, from page 14 (print version; p. 30 PDF) of the PCAST 4th Assessment of the NNI,

However, this may be a surprise, from page 15 (print version; p. 31 PDF) of the PCAST 4th Assessment of the NNI,

Good grief! Canada is in the top five countries for venture capital spending on nanotechnology. Of course, we had our banner year in 2008, with quite a dip in 2009 but it looks like we rebounded mildly in 2010.

It’s always interesting for me to analyze the US nanotechnology efforts in relationship to the Canadian efforts (as well as, getting a sense of the international scene). Actually, I can’t analyze our efforts since the Canadian government doesn’t tend to share information (or provides reams of meaningless data) with its citizens so I’m driven to finding it in US government documents and materials provided by international governmental organizations such as the OECD (Organization for Econ0mic Cooperation and Development).

Getting back to the report, which after all is about the US situation, I’m particularly interested in the recommendations for metrics (thank you, Dexter) and EHS. From page 22 (print version; p. 38 PDF) of the PCAST 4th Assessment of the NNI (I have edited out some footnotes),

Agencies should develop a mission-appropriate definition of nanotechnology that enables the tracking of specific nanotechnology investments supported at the program level. The definition and funding details should be published in agency implementation plans to promote clarity.

This recommendation enables each agency to develop a mission-appropriate definition of nanotechnol­ogy to characterize its nanotechnology portfolio. Requiring each agency to publish its definition and the resulting budget allocations will improve clarity across the Federal nanotechnology portfolio and ensure that nanotechnology investments are accurately characterized.

The NNCO should track the development of metrics for quantifying the Federal nanotechnology portfolio and implement them to assess NNI outputs.

Current Federal efforts to measure public and private investment, scientific productivity, and workforce have been inconsistent and decentralized. The publication of agency-specific data will enable the NNCO to consistently track nanotechnology investments across the Federal government and enable it to report NNI impacts with greater confidence and transparency.

There is an extensive and growing body of high-quality academic research that is already working toward the establishment of nanotechnology metrics by drawing upon bibliometrics data from the public domain (e.g., publication and patent data). … Bibliometrics data are used as indicators of productivity beyond academia, often in the absence of other metrics from the private sector. As nanotechnology continues to mature and move closer toward commercialization, efforts to more accurately capture economic returns are picking up pace. Examples include the March 2012 International Symposium on Assessing Economic Impacts of Nanotechnologies sponsored jointly by the NNI and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development held in Washington, DC, [mentioned in my March 29, 2012 posting] as well as the upcoming 2012 National Research Council review of the NNI.

A final area in need of metrics development is in the quantification of the nanotechnology workforce.  [emphasis mine] Accurately categorizing agency-level nanotechnology investments will facilitate the identification of nanotechnology trainees, including the academic, scientific, and professional nanotechnology workforce for which there is currently a paucity of data…. One area where such tracking would have significant impact is in the identification of nanotechnology-related jobs for which there are no standard occu­pational codes. Good data on the workforce will enable the implementation of additional measures to identify and mitigate future threats to occupational health and safety.

PCAST recommends that NNCO serve as a central repository to collect these metrics and leverage advances in metrics-development to collect, track, and analyze data regarding publications, patents, educational activities, and the workforce to produce and publish its own statistics on behalf of the NSET. This under­taking is an integral component of cross-agency coordination of the Federal nanotechnology portfolio.

That first recommendation seems problematic. The notion of agencies developing mission-specific definitions of nanotechnology, as recommended, sets the stage for multiple and competing definitions in a situation where you want to standardize as much as possible.

Unfortunately, the alternative is not an improvement. An attempt to standardize across all agencies would most probably lead to years of meetings and discussions before anything was ever measured.

I’m not quite as confident about bibliometrics as the authors of this report are but, as they hint, oftentimes it’s the only quantifiable data available. While there is much talk about establishing other metrics, there is no hint as to how this will be done or who will do it or whether money will be allocated for this purpose.

The recommendations for further EHS research, from pp. 22-3 (print version; pp. 38-9 PDF) of the PCAST 4th Assessment of the NNI, include (I have edited out a reference to an appendix),

The NSET should establish high-level, cross-agency authoritative and accountable governance of Federal nanotechnology-related EHS research so that the knowledge created as a result of Federal investments can better inform policy makers.

PCAST acknowledges that the NSET has acted on our recommendation to identify a central coordina­tor for nanotechnology-related EHS research within NNCO. The EHS coordinator has done a laudable job developing and communicating the 2011 NNI EHS research strategy. However, there is still a lack of integration between nanotechnology-related EHS research funded through the NNI and the kind of information policy makers need to effectively manage potential risks from nanomaterials. The estab­lishment of the Emerging Technologies Interagency Policy Coordination Committee (ETIPC) through OSTP has begun to bridge that gap, but without close integration between ETIPC and the NEHI working group, the gap may not be sufficiently narrowed. OSTP and the NSET Subcommittee should expand the charter of the NEHI working group to enable the group to address cross-agency nanotechnology-related policy issues more broadly.

The NSET should increase investment in cross-cutting areas of EHS that promote knowledge transfer such as informatics, partnerships, and instrumentation development.

The 2011 NNI EHS research strategy acknowledges the critical role that informatics, partnerships, and instrumentation development play in a comprehensive approach to addressing nanotechnology risks to human health and the environment. Nascent efforts in informatics should be supported so that advances can be accelerated in this critical cross-cutting area. Rather than continue to support the proliferation of databases that results from many new nano-EHS projects, the effort should be directed at enabling diverse communities to extract meaningful information from each other’s work. New networks that connect researchers together, along with new tools for extracting information from Federally funded research, should be established and supported through the NNI. The findings of the December 2011 workshop to establish a Nanoinformatics 2020 Roadmap19 in conjunction with the 2011 NNI EHS research strategy can serve as a guide for new work in this area.

Significant progress has been made in the area of partnerships with numerous examples of mul­tistakeholder and interagency collaboration underway. One of these is the Nanorelease Project,20 which brings together five NNI agencies, non-governmental organizations, a labor union, and several companies, among others, to develop methods for measuring the release of nanomaterials from com­mercial products. A specific area where better coordination could occur is in the area of occupational safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should work with companies in a non-enforcement capacity to develop better tools for hazard communication similar to the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety’s (NIOSH) partnership program. This is especially important as the United States seeks to bring its hazard communication standard in alignment with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Greater engagement by OSHA would also begin to address some of the difficulties companies face in implementing good health and safety programs in their nanomaterial workplaces …

New modes of international cooperation, such as the joint funding of two environmental-impacts consortia by the EPA and the United Kingdom, have also emerged since the 2010 PCAST report. The NNI should increase funding for these cross-cutting activities to leverage the U.S. investment in nanotechnology-related EHS research.

The wealth of abbreviations makes this section a little hard to read. As I understand it, the recommendations are aimed at improving use of their current and future resources by better coordinating the research efforts, sharing data (with a special eye to providing information policymakers can use effectively), and collaborating internationally on EHS research.

Canadian government as a venture capitalist and its Integran investment

Canada’s Minister of Industry, Christian Paradis, has just announced a $339,386 investment in Integran Technologies Inc. The company is based in Mississauga [sometimes identified as Toronto], Ontario and I mentioned it most recently in my March 26, 2012 posting in regard to a business deal with Pratt & Whitney and Integran’s electroplating process for the aerospace industry. (Integran is also mentioned in my Sept. 4, 2008 posting about $4.5M in research funds from the Canadian government for coatings in the US-led Joint Strike Fighter Program [presumably military airplanes].)

Here’s a little more about the investment, which is to be repaid, (from the April 16, 2012 news item on Nanowerk),

The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, today announced a repayable [emphasis mine] government investment of $399,386 in a project by Integran Technologies Inc. The Mississauga-based company is developing innovative nano-structured aerospace and defence products that will offer superior performance while meeting the highest environmental standards. The contribution will be made through the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative.

Integran’s project will result in the creation of next-generation metal alloys that are more robust and free from toxic beryllium copper. This will help expand the company’s product line and its customer base. As part of the initiative, Integran will collaborate with graduate-level engineering students from the University of Toronto.

“Since being founded over 12 years ago, Integran has been committed to developing environmentally benign alternatives to toxic materials and processes,” said Gino Palumbo, Integran’s President and CEO. “Integran is confident that through this program, our core patented nanotechnology can be optimized and demonstrated to be a viable, cost-effective alternative to the alloying of copper with toxic beryllium-a strengthening process that remains in widespread use for various industrial, aerospace and defence applications.”

The latest funds appear to be part of a new approach to science and research funding by the Canadian government.  From the news item,

Economic Action Plan 2012 commits $1.1 billion over five years to directly support business innovation and makes available $500 million for venture capital to realign the government’s approach to promoting innovation and create better opportunities for businesses. This includes helping high-growth firms access risk capital, increasing direct support for business innovation, supporting private and public research collaboration, supporting innovation through procurement, refocusing National Research Council Canada, and improving the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax incentive program.

The mention of venture capital, supporting innovation through procurement, refocusing the National Research Council, etc. were all recommendations made in the Jenkins report (Innovation Canada: A Call to Action aka, Report on Review of Federal Support to R&D). I last posted about the report on Oct. 21, 2011 at about the time it was released.

Nanodiagnostics: a roundtable at Kavli and new report from Cientifica

The Kavli Foundation, based in California, held a roundtable discussion on ‘Fighting Cancer with Nanotechnology‘ which focused largely on diagnostics and drug delivery. According to a March 14, 2012 news item on Nanowerk, the four participants were:

  • Anna Barker – Former Deputy Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and current Director of Arizona State University’s Transformative Healthcare Networks;
  • Mark E. Davis – Professor of Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and a member of the Experimental Therapeutics Program of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the City of Hope;
  • James Heath – Professor of Chemistry at Caltech and a founding Board member of Caltech’s Kavli Nanoscience Institute;
  • Michael Phelps – Norton Simon Professor, and Chair of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the University of California Los Angeles.

The researchers discussed how nanotechnology holds the promise of revolutionizing the way medicine wages war against cancer, from providing new ways to combine drugs to delivering gene-silencing therapeutics for cancer cells. [emphasis mine]

Yet again, war has been used as a metaphor for healing. I particularly appreciate the way ‘revolution’, which resonates with US audiences in a very particular way, has been introduced.

The discussion features diagnostics,

JAMES HEATH: That is certainly an important application. A typical diagnostic test measures only a single protein. But the nature of cancer—even a single cancer type—is that it can vary significantly from patient to patient. The implication is that there is probably not a single protein biomarker that can distinguish between such patient variations. Even to confidently address a single diagnostic question may take measuring several protein biomarkers. Discovering the right biomarkers is extremely challenging—you might have 300 candidate biomarkers from which you want to choose just six, but you will likely have to test all 300 on a very large patient pool to determine the best six. That’s tough to do with existing technologies because each protein measurement requires a large sample of blood or tumor tissue, and each measurement is time-consuming, labor intensive and expensive. With some of the emerging nanotechnologies, a large panel of candidate protein biomarkers can be rapidly measured from just a pinprick of blood, or a tissue sample as small as a single cell. This allows one to accelerate the development of conventional diagnostic tests, but it also opens up the possibilities for fundamentally new diagnostic approaches. These are opportunities that nanotech is bringing into play that simply weren’t there before.

Here’s one of my favourite comments,

MICHAEL PHELPS: Yes. All of us developing therapeutics want to have a transparent patient—to see where the drug goes throughout all tissues of the body, whether it hits the disease target in a sufficient dose to induce the desired therapeutic effect on the target, and where else the drug goes in the body regarding side effects. [emphasis mine] PET [positron emission tomography ‘scan’] can reveal all this. For this reason almost all drug companies now use PET in their discovery and development processes.

I suspect Phelps was a bit over enthused and spoke without thinking. I’m sure most doctors and researchers would agree that what they want is to heal without harm and not transparent patients. That’s why they’re so excited about nanotechnology and therapeutics, they’re trying to eliminate or, at least, lessen harm in the healing process. It would be nice though if they get past the ‘war’ metaphors and dreams of transparent patients.

I found the comments about the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration), pharmaceutical companies and biotech startups quite interesting,

ANNA BARKER: These challenges are mostly related to perception and having the tools to demonstrate that the agent does what you say it does. It’s more difficult for nanotherapeutics than for other drugs because they employ a new set of technologies that the FDA is more guarded about approving. The FDA is responsible for the health of the American public, so they are very careful about putting anything new into the population. So the challenges have to do with showing you can deliver what you said you were going to deliver to the target, and that the toxicity and distribution of the agent in the body is what you predicted. You have to have different measures than what is included in the classic toxicology testing packages we use for potential drugs.

MARK DAVIS: There’s so much cool science that people want to do, but you’re limited in what you can do in patients for a number of reasons. One is financial. This area is not being pushed forward by big Pharma, but by biotech companies, and they have limited resources. Secondly, the FDA is still learning about these innovations, they can limit what you are allowed to do in a clinical trial. For example, when we did the first clinical trial with a nanoparticle that had a targeting agent enabling it to latch onto a specific receptor on cancer cells and a gene silencing payload, we realized it would be important to know if patients have this receptor and the gene target of the payload to begin with. Prebiopsies from patients before testing the nanotherapeutic on them to see if the tumor cells had this receptor and gene target in abundance would have been helpful. However, in this first-in-man trial, the FDA did not allow required biopsies, and they were performed on a volunteer-basis only.

It is a fascinating discussion as it provides insight into the field of nanotherapeutics and into the some of the researchers.

On the topic of nanodiagnostics but this time focusing on the business end of things, a new report has been released by Cientifica. From the March 13, 2012 press release,

Nanodiagnostics will be a $50-billion market by 2021; Cientifica’s “Nanotechnology for Medical Diagnostics” looks at emerging nanoscale technologies

Following on from Cientifica’s Nanotechnology for Drug Delivery report series, “Nanotechnology for Medical Diagnostics,” a 237-page report, takes a comprehensive look at current and emerging nanoscale technologies used for medical diagnostics.

Areas examined include quantum dots, gold nanoparticles, exosomes, nanoporous silica, nanowires, micro- and nanocantilever arrays, carbon nanotubes, ion channel switch nanobiosensors, and many more.

Cientifica estimates medical imaging is the sector showing the highest growth and impact of nanomaterials. Already a $1.7-billion market, with gold nanoparticle applications accounting for $959 million, imaging will continue to be the largest nanodiagnostics sector, with gold nanoparticles, quantum dots and nanobiosensors all easily exceeding $10 billion.

“Getting onboard with the right technology at the right time is crucial,” said Harper [Tim Harper, Cientifica’s Chief Executive Officer]. “The use of exosomes in diagnosis, for instance, a relatively new technique and a tiny market, is set to reach close to half a billion dollars by 2021.”

You can find out more and/or purchase the report here.

I have written about Cientifica’s  Nanotechnology for Drug Delivery (NDD) white paper here and have published an interview with Tim Harper about global nanotechnology funding and economic impacts here.

Ted Sargent and Inerjys

Ted Sargent, Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology, University of Toronto, has been mentioned here a number of times regarding his work on solar cells. Here are a few of the mostly recent postings (not a complete list), June 28, 2011, July 11, 2011, and Sept. 20, 2011.

Now, a Montréal-based company, Inerjys Ventures has just announced that Ted Sargent has joined their board of advisors. From the Jan. 9, 2012 news item on MarketWatch,

Inerjys Ventures, a $1 billion renewable energy strategic investment fund and global leader in green finance, announced today that it has constituted a board of advisors and named its first members. Inerjys has brought together thought leaders from renewable energy, finance and government to guide its decisions and strategic vision as the world approaches a clean energy economy.

The announcement comes at a decisive time for Inerjys, which was recently featured at the prestigious World Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa. The firm is currently developing several large-scale renewable energy projects worldwide, to be announced as it completes the closing of its renewable energy investment fund, Inerjys Ventures. At a projected capitalization of $1 billion CAD, Inerjys Ventures will be the largest cleantech venture vehicle in Canada and one of the largest in the world. The board will convene regularly to direct the growth of Inerjys and will lend their expertise to analyze investment opportunities in Canada and around the world.

You can learn more about Inerjys here.