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Intelligent Machines

Nanotech Briefs

IPO

Ending its quest to be the first high-profile nanotech startup to go public, Nanosys, based in Palo Alto, CA, has withdrawn its planned IPO. While nanotech observers have suggested that the move was the result of waning optimism over nanotech’s short-term market potential, the company cited “adverse market conditions” that it said meant it “is not advisable at this time to proceed.”

Collaborations

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Woburn, MA-based Nantero, a startup developing electronic applications for carbon nanotubes, has partnered with BAE Systems, the large U.K. aerospace manufacturer, to work on electronic devices for advanced defense and aerospace systems. Nantero’s goal is to develop high-density nonvolatile random-access storage devices based on carbon nanotubes; such devices could serve as a universal memory, replacing DRAM and flash memory. BAE says it plans to combine Nantero’s know-how with its semiconductor technology.

Regulations

The U.K.’s Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering have released a study calling for a series of steps to ensure the safety of nanotechnology. Among its recommendations is a multidisciplinary center to study the toxicology and environmental impact of nanoparticles and nanotubes. The groups also recommend that the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes into the environment “be avoided as far as possible.”

Follow-Up

Cambrios Technologies, a San Francisco start-up formerly called Semzyme, says it has secured $1.8 million in venture financing. Cambrios was cofounded by Angela Belcher, a materials scientist at MIT who has developed novel ways to make electronic materials using genetically engineered viruses and bacteria (see “Biotech Boost for Nanoelectronics,” TR June 2003). Cambrios intends to use the technology as a way to fabricate high-quality nanoscale structures out of semi-conductors, metals, ceramics and magnetic materials.

Advance

Teaching one of biology’s basic molecules a new trick, researchers at Purdue University have coaxed RNA into forming three-dimensional structures (left). The hope is that RNA could one day offer a quick and easy way to make scaffolding that would, in turn, be used to construct nano devices, including tiny sensors and diagnostic chips.

Financing

Reflecting the growing interest in using nanotech for biological applications, Seattle’s Nanostring Technologies has raised $4.3 million in venture investment. The startup aims to develop a bar-coding system for single molecules that could lead to devices 100,000 times more sensitive than existing DNA microarrays used in diagnostics and forensics. The technology was originally developed at Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology.

One concern about the technology, says Robert Weinstein, chair of infectious disease at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, is that it may send doctors chasing after too many false positivesseeming clusters of infections that turn out to be random statistical anomalies. Even so, most infection control specialists agree that they need help from computers in crunching the mountains of patient data that may conceal evidence of an impending outbreak.

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