Editor’s note: Charlotte Beat is a regular feature on Wednesdays.University of North Carolina at Charlotte spinout Nanoresist Technologies Inc. is seeking $1 million in venture or angel backing for its method of making faster computer chips, says founder Dr. Ken Gonsalves, a polymer chemist.

Gonsalves, distinguished professor of polymer chemistry, created Nanoresist in 2000, and first looked for venture backing a year ago.. The deals potential venture backers suggested did not interest him then, he tells Local Tech Wire.

Nanoresist has developed advanced, “cutting-edge” plastics that may help computer chip makers burn ultra-tiny nanoscale features to give their products “an exponential increase in speed,” says Gonsalves. The process involves extreme ultra-violet lithography to cut features around the nanoresist material mask.

But last year the company did not have a product and investor offers were not promising. “They wanted me to give it away for free and work for them,” he says. “I said I already have a nice job.”

He managed the company on a shoestring. “My philosophy is that you start a company doing everything yourself,” he says. “I came here from the northeast and most start up companies there are bootstrapped. I saw faculty and students doing them like this when I was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

Now, Gonsalves says, the firm’s research in the last six months has shown that its process can consistently produce features on the scale of 33 nanometers. “We were surprised by our results. We knew it would work, but not at such consistency. We’re the only group that has been able to do this,” he says. “Our competitors have not been able to get to this level. We can get gate sizes to 20 nanometers in five years,” he adds.

Gonsalves says Intel has looked at the Nanoresist technology “and they’re excited. We have a product and we have a lock on it. So we’re ready to talk to venture capitalists.”

Tissue engineering

Research by his group at UNC may lead to yet another company spinout in the not too distant future. It is developing polymer matrices that help biological cells line up.

“We can line cells up and make three dimensional biodegradable structures,” Gonsalves says. “You could implant them in the body where the polymer materials dissolve away and the cells differentiate into specific tissue that has been damaged. In another five years, we may be able to replace a plethora of different organs.”

Initially, however, the chemist is working with another UNC researcher, Dr. Michael Hudson, on developing the technology for advance wound healing.

Gonsalves says the research may eventually develop ways to help regenerate neurons to restore function to brain and spinal cord injury patients. The researchers are also looking at a cancer therapy that would trigger light energy inside malignant cells to kill them.
“We expect to have a couple of biotech products by next fall,” he says.

Gonsalves earned a bachelor’s degree in science at Delhi University, his Master’s at Boston College, and his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has done post-doctorate research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Biotech Conference

Hudson is also a speaker at the upcoming biotechnology conference at UNC-Charlotte’s Barnhardt Center Sept. 14.

Hudson will talk about the use of “Staph Aureus Components for Enhanced Adhesion of Bone Forming Cells to Orthopedic Implants.” Not all the presentations are so technical, however.

“Charlotte’s Emerging Role in Biotechnology 2004,” includes a keynote address by Don deBethizy, president and chief executive officer of Winston-Salem based Targacept, on “The Targacept Story.”

Other items on the daylong agenda include a “UNC Charlotte Bioinformatics Roadmap,” by UNC professor Dr. Larry Mays, and “The Future of Bioinformatics,” by Susan Flood, lead strategist for Cary-based SAS.

Garheng Kong of Intersouth Partners, Durham, will discuss investment and market trends and John Crumpler, managing partner of HBM Bio Ventures will discuss “HBM Bio Ventures: A New Way to Invest in Biotechnology.”

The event includes before and after networking sessions. It is hosted by UNC Charlotte’s office of technology transfer and college of information technology, the Business Innovation & Growth Council, Carolinas Healthcare System, and the Small Business and Technology Development Center.

Kenneth Gonsalves: www.chem.uncc.edu/faculty/gonsalves/profile_Gonsalves.html

Register for UNC Biotech Conference: www.ott.uncc.edu/biotech