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Capital investment takes innovation a step closer to commercialization

Three bone screws.

These bone screws are one of the products developed by mechanical and aerospace engineering Associate Professor Hao Li, who is using nanofabrication techniques to discover novel nanofillers and nanocomposites for orthopedic and other applications.

In 2006, two associate professors in MU’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department launched a company with the goal of commercializing their nanotechnology research innovations. Hao Li and Qingsong Yu, along with Meng Chan, their new enterprise’s chief scientist, started Nanova, Inc., a company that specializes in orthopedic, dental and cardiovascular medical devices. Nanova’s team also includes Orthopedic Physician Kenneth Lambert.

In March 2013, the researchers announced that China-based SummitView Capital — and other backers — would invest $7 million in Nanova to bring the company’s products to market in both this country and China. As a venture capital firm, SummitView will be a complimentary partner in the company, contributing to promotions and marketing efforts as well as manufacturing expertise.

“We know ourselves. We don’t have experience in marketing and management,” Li said.

The first product the company will develop is bioadsorbable bone screws.

“It’s something I’ve thought about since I was a student,” Li said. “It is a very useful, novel device. We would like to make it available in underdeveloped countries.”

Li has been researching nanocomposites since 2005. In 2009, he received the National Science Foundation’s prestigious CAREER award to investigate hydroxyapatite nanofibers. The bone screws are a product of that research focus.

The Nanova research team also is close to commercializing a plasma dental brush that will clean and disinfect cavities in teeth, increasing the bond of dental fillings.

“Companies have to take risks and take the full responsibility, right or wrong. If you do nothing, you’re pretty safe. You must have persistence,” Li advised.

SummitView is located in Wujin, the industrial district in the city of Changzhou. The company’s representative, Jianyue Pan, said that Nanova is their first investment in Missouri. While in Columbia to announce their support of Nanova, SummitView signed a memorandum of understanding with MU and the City of Columbia to collaborate on future economic development.