Elon Musk said “nanotechnology is BS” a few weeks ago, and suddenly everyone wants to talk about nanotechnology again. When we first heard about nanotechnology back in 2004, we could hardly contain our excitement when reading about nanomaterials with seemingly magical properties. We immediately wanted to “invest in nanotechnology“, and proceeded down a path which largely involved exposing the seedy underbelly of the penny stock world, and the dangers it poses to unsuspecting retail investors. Unfortunately, nanotechnology as we originally conceived it didn’t come to fruition. What did happen was that new technologies like synthetic biology, gene editing, and genomics, carried on the torch of nanotechnology’s promise.
Many of today’s disruptive technologies could easily fit into the definition of nanotechnology. They are nanotechnology, they’re just not called “nano” anymore. For example, genetic sequencing involves reading the recipe of a cell, and gene editing is changing the recipe of the cell to create artificial biological nanomachines. Ask any long-term Illumina investor how lucrative it has been to investing in genetic sequencing machines over the last decade.
While graphene might be the most incredible material you’ve ever heard of, companies can’t seem to use it for anything more useful than some expensive bike wheels and tennis rackets. We’re still waiting for graphene to live up to its promise – kind of like how we’ve been waiting for carbon nanotubes to do the same. Could it be that these nanomaterials are being commercialized and we’re just not noticing it? Are they just being marketed under different names according to “the new definition of nanotechnology“? We decided to look at some of the nanotechnology startups out there getting funding this year to see what sort of nanotechnology innovation is being funded.
15 Nanotechnology Companies Getting Funding in 2018
We did a quick search on CrunchBase using the category “nanotechnology”, looking for any company that’s raised a funding round this year and that categorizes itself as a “nanotechnology company”. We then sorted the list by the size of their last funding round:
|Organization Name||Total Funding Amount||Last Funding Amount|
|Oxford Nanopore Technologies||$679,000,000||$100,000,000|
|Nanotech Industrial Solutions||$12,000,000||$12,000,000|
Nanotechnology Companies We Know
First, let’s go through all the names on the list that we have written about before.
The nanotechnology company to receive the most funding in 2018 so far is Oxford Nanopore with a $100 million round, a topic we recently dug into in our article on Oxford Nanopore vs. Illumina. Then we see Nantero taking in a $29.7 million round from big names like Cisco, Dell, and Kingston Technology (the world’s largest producer of memory). Last time we touched on Nantero was back in 2015 when we proclaimed that Nantero’s Nanotube Memory (NRAM) is Finally Here. Then we see a $25.5 million round going to Liquidia: Joseph DeSimone’s Nanotechnology Company. Then there’s Oxford Photovoltaics, a company we first wrote about 4 years ago. They’ve now taken in $53.5 million to develop their “perovskite solar technology” which is expected to debut next year. Lastly, we have StoreDot, a battery technology company that made it onto our List of New Lithium Battery Technology Startups we published last year. StoreDot uses quantum dots to build better batteries.
The remaining 10 companies on the list we haven’t come across yet so let’s take a quick look at each one.
“New” Nanotechnology Companies
Founded in 2003, Silicon Valley startup DigiLens has taken in $60 million in funding to develop nanomaterials that make Heads-Up-Displays (HUDs) better. They describe their nanomaterial as “an extraordinarily high-index modulation photopolymer that enables wide field-of-view HUDs and AR displays that can be manufactured at a low cost.” The world’s biggest manufacturer of AutoHUD displays, Continental, has entered into a strategic partnership with DigiLens. Continental’s HUDs provide basic 2D symbology, while the DigiLens’ waveguide technology is 3D and can tag other cars and road markings in the driver’s view.
Throw some 3D sensing into the mix and soon driving a car will feel just like a video game – a video game that the robots will always be able to play better than humans.
Founded in 2010, Swiss startup Abionic has taken in $27.7 million in funding so far, the majority of which came in the form of a $20.3 million funding round which closed in March of this year. The company’s product is abioSCOPE® Screening, a revolutionary biomedical screening platform which administers tests to patients from a single drop of blood, in record time.
We’ve all heard that fairytale story before, but in this case the technology may be spelled out a little better. The CEO and founder, Nicolas Durand, developed the company’s core technology while achieving his PhD in nanotechnology from EPFL, and since then Abionic has developed the world’s fastest sepsis test which is CE marked and provides results in 5 minutes. (Sepsis is the number one preventable death, if treated within the first hour.)
Dallas, Texas startup Onconano is a biotech company that “develops nanotechnology-
As Elon Musk implied, trying to categorize a company as a “nanotechnology company” can often be extremely subjective. Founded in 2002, Fremont, California startup Lyncean Technologies has taken in $19.8 million in funding to develop “a miniature synchrotron x-ray source.” The majority of that funding was received only a month ago when they took in a Series B round of $13.8 million led by Intel. In the company press release, the CEO said “This new round also enables initial development of an accelerator-based, clean, reliable, high power EUV source for potential use in future lithography systems.” Light is made up of photons, so are photons small enough to be considered “nanotechnology”? If so, should solar companies also be considered “nanotechnology companies”? Maybe Elon Musk was on to something when he said “nano applies to everything and therefore means nothing.”
Founded in 2013, Illinois startup NuMat Technologies has taken in $22.3 million so far to “solve the world’s toughest challenges at the atomic level.” Their Series B round of $12.4 million closed in April of this year, and was led by Bryan Johnson’s OS Fund. What NuMat is doing can best be described as “materials science meets big data”. In much the same way that pharma companies use AI algorithms to discover drugs, NuMat uses AI to design atomically-engineered materials called MOFs (Metal-Organic Frameworks). According to NuMat, “MOFs are a breakthrough material class with vast surface areas, highly tunable porosities, and near-infinite combinatorial possibilities.”
New Jersey startup Nanotech Industrial Solutions has taken in $12 million in funding so far, all of which was raised just last month. They claim to be “the only manufacturer of nano and submicron spherical sized particles of Inorganic Fullerene-like Tungsten Disulfide.” Those particles are being used to produce a product line of additives called NanoLub:
Founded in 2001, Massachusetts startup Nano-C has taken in $11.5 million in funding, all of which came in the form of a single round that closed in April of this year. The cofounder of Analog Devices, Ray Stata, led the round. Nano-C produces nanostructured carbon for energy and electronics applications, or going back to old school terminology, they produce carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, and fullerene derivatives. Hopefully these will take off quicker than graphene has.
Founded in 2000, Michigan startup BlueWillow Biologics has taken in $92.8 million in funding so far to “harness nanotechnology
to develop intranasal vaccines.” Last month, they announced a $10 million Series A financing round which coincided with a name change from NanoBio to BlueWillow. Their technology platform “utilizes a novel oil-in-water nanoemulsion (NE) adjuvant to enable intranasal vaccines for respiratory and sexually transmitted diseases.” Imagine being able to grab a bottle of nasal spray and sort yourself out, as opposed to whipping out your junk in front of the doctor and getting grilled on how promiscuous you’ve been lately.
Founded in 2002, Maryland startup Pixelligent has taken in $54.7 million in funding to “create zirconia nanocrystals and disperse them into polymers to produce crystal clear dispersions and deliver revolutionary optical properties.” Their latest round totaled $7.6 million and closed this past April. Just last week, Pixelligent’s CEO, Craig Bandes, published an article on LinkedIn titled Calling BS on Elon Musk’s BS which talked about Elon Musk’s dismissal of nanotechnology. It’s great to see a CEO with some cojones who isn’t afraid to say what he thinks in public, as opposed to the shriveling wallflowers you often see today, trying their best not to upset the outrage machine.
Founded in 2002, Arkansas startup NanoMech has taken in $39.6 million in funding from investors that include the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco). Their latest funding round totaled $7 million and closed in April of this year. NanoMech is a specialty materials company that produces nano-engineered lubricants, chemistries, and coatings:
Over the course of six years, NanoMech has grown from one product offering to 80.
Innovations in nanotechnology are still happening. In this article, we learned about 10-ish nanotechnology companies getting funding in 2018 that we hadn’t come across before. There were more nanotechnology companies that received funding this year, but we had a word limit to adhere to – not to mention there are probably nanotechnology companies out there that didn’t select the “nanotechnology category” in CrunchBase and were consequently missed. In any case, this list was meant to examine the types of nanotechnology companies getting funding and the sorts of innovations that are happening in nanotechnology – or whatever it is they’re calling it these days.
Read the original article here.