Big business appeal of nanotechnology on display in Durham

News | 04. 02. 2012

Liquidia Technologies

DURHAM, N.C. - Starting Tuesday night with a speaker reception at the headquarters of the Center of Innovation for NanoBiotechnology (COIN), the fourth annual Nanotechnology Commercialization Conference will kick off with United States Congressman GK Butterfield in attendance.

The event, in Durham this year, features local, national and international nanotech commercialization leaders who will discuss topics such as how to grow this sector through university research, thoughtful regulatory guidance, corporate partnerships and increased investment.

The lunch keynote on Wednesday includes four heavy hitters from North Carolina and will be hosted and moderated by Chris William of the PBS show Carolina Business Review.

This fireside chat includes former CEO of the North Carolina Biotech Center, Charles Hamner, and now Chairman of the Hamner Institute. The discussion also includes John Hardin, the Executive Director of the Office of Science and Technology, who works with the NC Department of Commerce on science and technology policy. Finally, the CEO of a global leader of nanobiotechnology, and from our own backyard, Neal Fowler of Liquidia will discuss his experience and vision from the private sector.

The idea of the panel is how to create the infrastructure to create more companies like Liquidia that license technology from our leading research universities, develop the technology, attract investment capital, attract management and retain and attract the best and the brightest talent to the region.

The technology behind Liquidia started with Dr. Joe DeSimone and his team of researchers at his labs at UNC and NC State. The technology was spun out of the university labs, raised capital from local and regional VCs such as Wakefield Group, PPD, Pappas Ventures, and NEA and eventually the Gates Foundation. The company attracted experienced management such as Mr. Fowler.

Liquidia now has 54 employees and presumably some of the best talent in the world is working on this cutting edge technology called PRINT, where drug companies and vaccine companies are coating Liquidia’s nanoparticles with their drugs to attack fatal diseases.

So how are we addressing these important issues of a nurturing ecosystem to build nanotechnology companies and great jobs in the region? Several federal government leaders are coming to discuss policy. Several national investors in nanotech companies, including two leaders from Harris and Harris, a publicly traded venture capital, will present at the conference and there will be an investor pitch room - a tough love feedback session for early stage nanotech companies.

A former FDA executive will give a morning keynote speech after meeting with company executives at a VIP Breakfast. Another session addresses how to sell your nano product to larger companies and to bigger markets. Executives and VIPs from around the country have agreed to meet with our regional companies in hopes of making a match to bring some new out of region resources to our market at VIP Partnering sessions during the conference.

And to improve the appeal to the non-nano crowd, there will also be a first of a kind Nano Art Exhibition on Wednesday night, during the networking reception, where images taken from a microsocope have been enlarged and colored to show beautiful images never seen before. These images will light up Bay 7 at the American Tobacco Campus like no other event since the renovation of the old tobacco warehouse.