RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – NC IDEA is searching for startup companies across North Carolina that are moving toward product production.

The four latest recipients are the following (information was provided by NC IDEA:


Company focus: Platform for the dynamic monitoring of nanoscale processes.

Raleigh, N.C.

John Damiano,, (919) 341-2612

NC IDEA Grant Purpose: The funds will support business development and intellectual property (IP) protection, allowing for a better understanding of the size, growth and direction of target markets, the development of an appropriate strategy and protection of the competitive advantage of Protochips. The resulting business will have a solid foundation and will reduce risk to investors, making the company and its opportunities attractive to external funding sources.

Billions of dollars have been spent on the research and development of nanomaterials, yet very few successful products have come to market that exploit the full potential of these new technologies. One critical barrier to the commercialization of nanomaterials is the lack of ability to study reactions in real time and at the atomic scale. Protochips products change the way nanoscale materials and processes are studied by converting existing and future electron microscopes into fully functioning laboratories. Protochips is developing semiconductor devices that interact with the specimen directly inside the electron microscope, using ultra-thin films and micro-fabrication techniques to enable the highest resolution of nanostructures in their native environments. Protochips will fundamentally change the way nanoscale materials are developed and integrated into commercial applications through a suite of products that provide real-time environmental control within the transmission electron microscope (TEM). Their products will allow scientists and engineers to develop novel nanomaterials and bring superior products based on these technologies to the market faster.

Microelectronics Assembly Technologies

Company focus: Technology to address heat generation from semiconductor devices.

Location: Raleigh, N.C.

Contact: Jim Clayton,, (919) 314-5520

NC IDEA Grant Purpose: The grant purpose is to finalize the build of the first Flex DIMM product module. M-A-T has done enough proof of concept work. The funds will be used more specifically for designing and fabricating a high frequency flexible circuit, DRAM ICs procurement and assembly and the integration of internal/external heat sinks.

Overview: The continued trends in semiconductors include faster clock speeds, miniaturization and cost reduction on chips. Heat generation from semiconductor devices is now a clear impediment to functionality for end user applications. This is more prominent in the blade server market sector because blade servers are space constrained, and their performance depends on the number of microprocessors and memory modules they contain. An increase in memory module density is accompanied by significant heat. Excessive heat leads to soft failures or data corruption, which is unacceptable to medical, financial and military centers. The current solutions are based on external air cooling. First, the memory modules and microprocessors are equipped with heat sinks to draw the heat away from one side of the semiconductor chips. Second, air is flown to carry the heat away from the memory modules and out of the blade server enclosure. The heat sinks must be powerful enough to draw heat away, making them so thick that adjacent modules obstruct the air channels between modules, and air cooling is rendered ineffective. The solution by Microelectronics Assembly Technologies (M-A-T), called The Flex DIMM (Dual-In-Line Memory-Module), addresses the fundamental problem of heat generation at the module level and facilitates the heat exhaust inside the blade server box as a whole.

DPoly Systems

Company focus: Process to increase efficiency and decrease cost of recycling common plastics.

Chapel Hill, N.C.

Ronald DiFelice,, (919) 338-8029

NC IDEA Grant Purpose: NC IDEA Grant funding will allow DPoly Systems to complete proof of concept work at a pilot facility on the campus of N.C. State University. Funding will support final validating experiments by partners and associated chemical characterization services. Funding will also support business plan development, strategic partner/customer acquisition and licensing/IP activities.

Overview: In order to expand the recycling of post-consumer plastics, new processes that chemically decompose plastics back into their basic components are needed. Current conversion methods exhibit poor performance due to slow reaction rates, the inability to run continuously, and inefficient yields. Using proprietary technology developed at N.C. State University, DPoly Systems is commercializing a more efficient single-step process to convert (depolymerize) post-consumer plastics to purified, reusable resin for new products. The result is a lower-cost process that can operate continuously and reduce depolymerization times from hours to minutes. This technology is being developed in direct response to the needs of plastic recyclers across the United States as recycled plastic usage is legislated and consumer requirements for recycled materials drive demand for recycled materials. Improving the recycling process for polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the first opportunity being addressed. PET is used in soda and water bottles and is the leading plastic recycling coding system. In 2005, there were more than 5 billion pounds of PET bottles and jars available in the United States for recycling; however, only 23 percent were collected for recycling and resale.


Company focus: Molecular testing to predict cancer recurrence and response to therapy.

Location: Durham, N.C.

Judd Staples,, (919) 668-7279

NC IDEA Grant Purpose: The funds will enable Oncogenomics to conduct primary market research, clinical development planning, and regulatory compliance planning in support of its clinical services business, while at the same time establishing low-volume operations in support of its services business to pharmaceutical developers.

The molecular characteristics of tumors can vary widely among patients with clinically similar disease. Yet, in developing a treatment plan for a cancer patient, oncologists often limit their consideration to a review of empiric evidence of how tumors of similar size and origin have responded to therapy. The current approach of basing therapeutic decisions on the clinical stage of the tumor has resulted in an inefficient and, for the most part, ineffective treatment of cancer. The fact remains that the age-adjusted death rate from cancer has declined less than 3 percent since 1975. Without a method of efficiently matching treatment choice to individual disease biology, oncologists are essentially fighting blind. Oncogenomics will bring personalization to the management of cancer, offering new hopes to patients and unprecedented value to the healthcare system. Oncogenomics’ molecular pharmacodynamic testing services provide highly accurate predictions of cancer recurrence and response to therapy from patient tumor samples, enabling treating oncologists to rationally select therapies for their patients and allowing pharmaceutical developers to identify patient populations more likely to benefit from new therapies. By bringing personalization to treatment decisions, Oncogenomics will dramatically improve the efficiency with which current therapies are administered and how new treatment options are introduced into the clinic.