Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Seizing the nano edge
Nanotechnology has plenty to offer
Surajeet Das Gupta / New Delhi   March 27,2004

It’s a project to turn science fiction into futuristic reality. At Velbionanotech, a little-       
known Bangalore-based company, researchers are working on path breaking projects  
that — if successful — might dramatically reduce the need for heart surgery or for  

Kidney stone operations.
What’s the frontier technology Velbionanotech is developing? It’s working on  
designing nanochips which will deliver a drug exactly to the affected area in the
body. So, one project aims to develop a chip which when injected into the body will 
ead towards the kidney and remove stones. Another — even more ambitious project
    aims to develop a nanochip that will move into the heart and reduce the fatty
     tissues that cause arteriosclerosis.

 Says Joseph Asantraj, chairman and CEO, Velbionanotech, who has been  
focusing on    these areas for the last two years: “We have completed the designing
stage of the   nanochips and have started developing a prototype of the product.
Commercialization   will take another two to three years. And these products will be
Cheaper than undergoing surgery.”
Asantraj’s dream is still a long way from reality. But nanotechnology is already
transforming the world in which we live. The textile industry is selling stain- and
Wrinkle-resistant fabrics based on nanotechnology. And companies like LG and
Samsung are selling nanotech-based refrigerators that keep food fresh for longer
Periods and air-conditioners that ensure fresh air. Says Ravinder Zutshi, vice
president Samsung India , “Nano-technology offers us an opportunity to reinforce our
health platform USP.”

Venture capital funds are also joining the bandwagon. Velbionanotech, for instance,
Is talking to ICICI Venture . Says Alluri Srinivasa, senior vice-president, ICICI
Venture: “We are looking at nanotechnology-based companies very closely. Initially
our strategy would be to invest in lower-end applications like drug-delivery systems
and then go up the learning curve.”

ICICI is also approaching US-based nanotech companies, which might look at
outsourcing part of their research to India , through joint ventures. it hopes to make its
First investment in a nanotech company within two to three months.