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Deshpande Center announces biotech startup and nanotech licensing deals

MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation has fostered a biotech startup company and licensing of a new semiconductor memory cell technology. The moves, based on research funded by the Deshpande Center, will help fulfill its aim to bridge the gap between university research and commercialization.

Deshpande Center executive director Krisztina Holly announced the deals at the center's third annual IdeaStream symposium on April 8. IdeaStream connects MIT researchers with members of the business community and showcases research likely to impact the marketplace in such areas as wireless communications, medical devices, drug discovery and semiconductor fabrication.

The startup, Pervasis Therapeutics, is a medical device technology company founded by researchers Robert Langer, Elazer Edelman, Jay Vacanti and Helen Nugent. They'll use $500,000 in seed money from Polaris Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures to further their research on integrating biomaterials with drugs and cells, and develop medical devices for treating vascular and other complex diseases.

Langer is the Kenneth J. Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Edelman is the Cabot Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at MIT and Harvard Medical School. Vacanti, a Harvard Medical School professor, is a surgeon and tissue engineering expert. Nugent is a research affiliate in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

"Pervasis will break new ground in combining cell biology, drug delivery and biomaterials," said Edelman. "We're focused on complex human diseases that are currently untreatable, and the support of the Deshpande Center and top-tier investors reflects the importance of what we're trying to accomplish."

A second research team, headed by professors Vladimir Bulovic of electrical engineering and computer science and Moungi Bawendi of chemistry, licensed a new memory cell invention to a nanotechnology company that aims to create high-performance "nano-enabled" computational systems.

Combining organic chemistry and quantum dot technology, Bulovic's and Bawendi's invention uses self-assembly to manufacture a persistent, nanoscale memory cell in an inexpensive, organic production system. The technology addresses the demand for more powerful, smaller, faster computing systems. Possible applications include the next generation of flash memory used in personal computers, digital cameras, and numerous other consumer products.

"The Deshpande Center provided us with a technical framework in which we could explore our idea, present it to a community with both technological and business savvy, and identify a commercial interaction that would allow the idea to be developed," said Bulovic.

Bulovic, along with Helen Nugent of the Pervasis team, were among several IdeaStream presenters who also received Deshpande Center grants (see MIT Tech Talk, April 7).

The symposium featured Innovation Showcase, a new segment that enabled 18 MIT researchers to pitch their ideas to venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs and receive feedback. These ideas ranged from early-stage ideas to spinoff companies and included a new method of detecting computer virus attacks and a startup that develops products to help reduce childhood asthma.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 14, 2004.

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