Harvard University's Office of Technology Development (OTD) has licensed a broad portfolio of more than 50 issued and pending patents of nano- and micro-scale molecular fabrication methods developed by Professor George Whitesides and the Whitesides Laboratory at Harvard to Nano-Terra, Inc., a newly formed, privately held company. Nano- Terra focuses on developing and commercializing industrial applications of these technologies with corporate and government partners.
The agreement spans the life of the patents. Harvard will receive royalties from products developed from these licensed technologies and will receive equity in Nano-Terra. Additional terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The licenses give Nano-Terra exclusive commercialization rights to these technologies in areas outside of the biomedical field such as electronics, aerospace, energy, industrial products, military uses, environmental testing, and consumer goods. Cambridge-based Nano-Terra is already pioneering a number of advanced technology platforms which employ the design and manipulation of molecular structures for the creation of new properties and functionalities in materials and intends to broaden its technology portfolio.
Isaac T. Kohlberg, Harvard University's Senior Associate Provost and Chief Technology Development Officer, said, "We believe that a well-funded, professionally managed, entrepreneurial company like Nano-Terra is best positioned to bring these pioneering technologies from the Harvard lab to the real world. George Whitesides has successfully commercialized IP developed in his Harvard laboratory for bioscience applications, and we expect he and the Nano-Terra team will fully capitalize on this ground-breaking technology. Their innovative co-development model enables them and their partners to more rapidly develop a broad range of industrial applications that will be of great value to society."
Carmichael Roberts, Vice Chairman and co-founder of Nano-Terra, said, "We're proud that Harvard believes that Nano-Terra's scientists and executives -- working in collaboration with corporate and government partners -- will enable us to quickly develop and commercialize the technologies that George has identified in his labs. Thanks to Harvard's professionalism and business leadership, we will be able to develop innovative applications for a broad set of industries as well as the U.S. government."
Nano-Terra's Collaborations Encourage Adoption of Technologies by Mature Businesses; Four Co-Development Agreements Already in Place
Nano-Terra's co-development business model will enable the cost-effective integration of breakthrough technologies into mature businesses while building value for both Nano-Terra and its corporate and government partners. Nano- Terra's scientists are using its patents to develop and apply technology to address partners' specific business needs. Through this innovative collaborative business model, Nano-Terra will enable its partners to gain access to the technology and expertise of Nano-Terra's scientists for minimal development costs and Nano-Terra and its corporate partners will share in the value created by the resultant technology.
The intellectual property licensed from Harvard -- involving molecular self-assembly, rapid prototyping, electrical/optical systems, soft lithography, and microfluidics -- has a potentially wide range of applications in a number of important industries. The company has already entered into co- development agreements with 3M, Merck KGaA, a major Asian electronics manufacturer, and the Department of Defense (DoD). Nano-Terra expects that these agreements will result in products being brought to market -- or into active use -- within the next 18 to 36 months.
Patents Licensed by Harvard Provides Unique Set of Tools and Methods for Surface Engineering
The patents licensed by Harvard to Nano-Terra cover a number of basic technologies for controlling the structure and chemistry of surfaces and interfaces at nano- and micro-scales, and incorporating nano-particles into functional systems and devices:
- Molecular self-assembly is an important method used in molecular nanotechnology to construct objects at nano- or micro-scales, and is a so-called "bottom-up" manufacturing technique (where molecules are added to each other) rather than a "top-down" technique where the final structure is "carved" from a larger block of matter. The Harvard patents include essential methods for patterning and assembling two- dimensional and three-dimensional objects.
- Rapid prototyping is a process that enables a functional prototype to be created in a couple of days, thereby making it more practical to quickly and cost-effectively make multiple iterations of a design until the ideal product component has been made. Every aspect of Nano- Terra's technology has been designed for rapid prototyping, giving our partners the greatest flexibility in delivering needed processes and products.
- Soft lithography is a set of methods for fabricating or replicating structures on a nano- or micro-scale, usually using rubber-based stamps, molds and masks. Soft lithography has advantages over other forms of lithography (e.g., photolithography and even electron beam lithography) in that it allows for control of surface structures and chemistry over small (square-nanometer) and large (square-meter) areas with resolution down to single nanometers; has low variable and capital costs; is replicable in mass volumes; works with a broad range of materials (including polymers, metals, glasses and ceramics); and is well-suited for applications involving curved, flexible and imperfect surfaces, along with rigid, planar surfaces.
- Microfluidics is the control and manipulation of nano- and micro- volumes of fluids, including liquids, gases, and plasmas, and has practical applications in the design of systems in which such small volumes of fluids will be used, such as a "lab-on-a-chip." The Harvard portfolio includes essential methods for making microfluidic systems and integrating them into apparatuses and devices.
- Electrical/Optical Systems are technologies that have been integrated to make components that can be readily converted into functional prototypes for a broad range of industrial applications. The Harvard portfolio licensed by Nano-Terra includes methods for self-assembling and using micro-lens arrays, diffraction gratings, anti-reflective surfaces, and electronic and data-storage devices.