Joseph DeSimone, whose nanotechnology research in University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill labs formed the basis for spinout Liquidia Technologies, will step down as director of UNC’s Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise 18 months after taking the top position.

The Kenan Institute, a part of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, pursues research, educational programs and public policy initiatives that support entrepreneurship. DeSimone was appointed to the post in July 2012, succeeding John D. Kasarda, director of the institute for 22 years.

DeSimone said he will step down from the institute at the end of the calendar year and an interim director will be named shortly.

“We just completed a great strategic planning process to reposition the KI to be a partner for innovative entrepreneurship,” he said in an e-mail to WRALTechWire. “That mission will continue and is greatly aligned with a similar focus at UNC-CH and for the region.”

DeSimone is a professor of chemistry at UNC and a professor of chemical engineering at N.C. State University. His research formed the “PRINT” technology that allows for customization of nanoparticle manufacturing into particular shapes. Liquidia, which DeSimone co-founded, has pursued health care applications for the technology, where the size and shape of a particle has an effect on how it is taken up by the cells of the human body. Liquidia has used the technology to improve the delivery of vaccines.

After stepping down from the Kenan Institute, DeSimone said he plans to resume his full activities in chemistry and chemical engineering at UNC and NCSU. DeSimone last month landed a $4.47 million grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to research the use of microneedles in chemical bio defense. He added that he is also helping with the launch of a new company in 3D additive manufacturing that is in its earliest stages.