CHInano: MESA+ director celebrates the Dutch spin offs

By Maarten den Dekker

As part of CHInano, the Netherlands participated in the International Roundtable on Nanotechnology (IRN 2014). The second IRN highlighted the business side of nanotechnology around the world. How can science and technology be translated in business and ‘global synergy’ and collaboration help to commercialize nanotechnology? Professor Dave Blank, Scientific Director of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology and member of the Topteam High Tech Systems and Materials, officially represented the Netherlands during this event.

Dave Blank presenting at IRN CHInano 2014
Dave Blank presenting at IRN CHInano 2014

Doctor Xijun Zhang elucidated China’s ambitions in the field of nanotechnology. Suzhou, a city close to Shanghai, is the first and only city in China that considers nanotechnology as its strategically emerging industry to strengthen and develop the regional economy. With considerable support of the government the Suzhou Industry Park is building a remarkable nanotech ecosystem. A major initiative is Nanopolis: a nanotechnology park of 1 km2 equipped with integrated services for R&D, technology incubation, pilot production, mass production, conference/exhibition facilities, etc. Despite of these kind of support and facilities the nanotech universities and institutes struggle to create business out of research and technology.

Professor Dave Blank mentioned nanotechnology as a breeding ground for SME’s. One of the largest institutes on nanotechnology in the Netherlands, MESA+, is known because of its entrepreneurial culture. It encourages entrepreneurship among its employees and gives them support in starting up a business. Therefore the institute became the birthplace of as many as 50 high-tech spin-off companies.

Combining China’s ambitions with the Dutch entrepreneurial approach, there are opportunities for international collaboration. Until now only 20% of the Nanopolis area is developed and the Chinese government is looking for foreign business partners. The Holland High Tech Center China, located at Nanopolis, is ready to assist Dutch nanotech companies to set up business in Suzhou.

CHInano: NOST and HHTCC stimulate Sino-Dutch high tech partnering

CHInano China, organized by Nanopolis in the Suzhou Industry Park (SIP), took place this year from September 24 to September 26. The NOST offices in Shanghai and Suzhou have participated in the extracurricular program of Dutch high-tech participants, in cooperation with the Holland High Tech Center China (HHTCC), also located in Suzhou. Dutch participants included Advanced Packaging Center, Business Cluster Semiconductors (BCS), Boschman technologies, Sempro and Trymax. These attended company visits, such as at Nedcard, Imec, SMIC and VDL ETG, exhibited at the CHInano conference, contributed to the International Round Table session on nanotechnology, and participated in networking and matchmaking events.

Meeting at SMIC, dressed up for the site visit
Meeting at SMIC, dressed up for the site visit
The booth of the Holland High Tech Center, an orange spot in the exhibition hall
The booth of the Holland High Tech Center, an orange spot in the exhibition hall

Extended HAMR event – networking

The Yangtze River delta hosts a number of Dutch rooted advanced machinery producers, which are collected in the Holland Advanced Machinery and production Rotation platform (HAMR). These companies were invited to attend a networking event with Ducth CHInano participants, in order to increase the connectivity and expose those who have the ambitions to extend their business in China to those who have already done so.

This event took place on the evening of September 24 in the Suzhou Kempinsky hotel. It attracted 20 participants, among which business and academic professionals from VDL ETG, Tecnotion, NXP, iBOT and Guilin University, who exchanged and discussed their Chinese experiences with the Dutch CHInanono participants.

Nanopolis matchmaking

In the morning of September 26, the Holland High Tech Center China and NOST hosted a matchmaking session at Nanopolis. The Chinese counterpart for BCS, who had collected high-potential matches to the Dutch companies, was the Suzhou IC association (SICA). This organization had introduced ASEN, GERAD, WLCSP and Miramems to this event.

After BCS and SICA shortly presented their organizations, the attending companies addressed individual companies, or posed specific questions to those who attended, and exchanged information.

Networking and matchmaking… part of the long breath of maneuvering in China, with more often than not no direct results. Nevertheless, orders have been placed on Friday the 26th and the Dutch consortium is looking forward to shortly broaden its activities in China, both in sales as R&D.

matchmaking at Nanopolis
matchmaking at Nanopolis

Endlessness in genetic info: circular RNA.

Researchers at the Partner Institute for Computational Biology (PICB), established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the German Max Planck Gesellschaft, unraveled the existence and mechanisms behind circular RNA molecules.

RNA usually carries information from cellular DNA. This information is used to produce proteins and to regulate all kinds of cellular processes. Historically, DNA and RNA are approached as linear carriers, although exceptions have been observed already since the 70s.

A recent line of reports has gradually started to dismiss the idea of rarity with respect to circular RNA. Now, a group of scientists lead by Yang Li from the PICB has indicated that the existence of circular RNAs is actually quite common… and very complex. A number of homologous genes in human and mouse both produce circular RNA molecules, although some sequences of the murine and the human ones may tend to be quite different.

These circular RNA molecules are likely to be functional, and in theory could consist of an endless array of possibilities. Most intriguingly, the information content of genes is now theoretically without limitations, and this would spark a new revolution genomics. Alternatively, circular RNA molecules may also functions based on their spatiotemporal presences regardless of their information content, such as being a decoy for RNA degrading enzymes.

The article was published in Cell in September 2014.

PM series: Nanoporphyrin

In a short series, we will focus on various topics on personalized medicine in China. Second in this series: personalized nano-medicine.

A group of Chinese and American researchers recently published a paper in Nature Communications on a nano-particle with a high potential in diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. The investigators designed particles, consisting of nanoporphyrins, to specifically target tumors in mice. When applied in vivo, these nano-particles revealed a broad range of clinically relevant properties. Applications ranged from diagnosis to treatment, as particles:

– enhanced the visibility of tumors by imaging techniques such as MRI and PET;

– could be activated on-site to produce heat or oxygen radicals to destroy tumor cells;

– could act as vehicles for targeted drug delivery in tumors.

All together, the investigators developed a versatile platform that is likely to find its application in patient-specific cancer diagnostics and treatment. It works in mice, and a successful application in humans is anticipated.