gerous particles into the bloodstream. The solution, Giroux
says, is a polymer material that dissolves within a month.
Some researchers have experimented with biodegrad-
able polymers. But Giroux says these break down to a
material that's inflammator y not something a doctor
would want to introduce into a patient's body.
Polymerix's stent coating, Giroux claims, breaks down
to an anti-inflammator y substance that's not only not
dangerous but can be therapeutic. She says the stent
coating can be engineered to incorporate a wide variety
of medicines, which are delivered to the body as the
coating breaks down.
Giroux is not aware of any other companies devel-
oping a biodegradable polymer that does not break down
to an inflammator y material. She says Polymerix is now
testing its stent coating in animals and that it could be
available commercially in two to three years.
Besides the stent market, where Polymerix is initially con-
centrating its efforts, there's a large potential market for mate-
rials that can gradually deliver medicines as they dissolve.
Polymerix's polymer-based drug-deliver y method has
its roots in research by Kathr yn Uhrich, a professor at
Rutgers University and cofounder of the company.
Rutgers holds the key patents to Uhrich's work and has
issued an exclusive license to Polymerix.
Polymerix was founded in June 2000 with seed capital
from Rutgers. In October 2001 the company got a $4.5
million angel investment and in October 2003 closed a
$3.9 million round of venture capital. That same month
it received a $4.5 million equity investment from a major
medical-device manufacturing company, a deal that could
produce an additional $21.5 million in funding if
Polymerix meets certain goals over the next several years.
Biotech watchers say the dr ug-deliver y potential of
stents is growing fast. A number of innovative star tups,
including Polymerix, Biosensors International and X-Cell
Medical, are experimenting with fully integrated dr ug-
eluting stents. Most analysts are confident that dr ug-
deliver y stents will capture a large share of the growing
stent market, estimated to reach $5 billion by next year.
Still, research firm Frost & Sullivan warns that these new
stent makers face the challenge of educating the market
and convincing medical professionals to move from tradi-
tional stents to drug-eluting stents.
Consumer electronics has never been the bread and
butter of Silicon Valley but now some of the country's top
tech firms are jumping into the market with abandon. Intel
has been the most aggressive in its pursuit of the so-called
digital home. The company has even dubbed 2004 "Year of
Consumer Electronics." It recently unveiled a new chip for
high-definition TVs, struck a deal with Movielink to
comarket its movie-download ser vice and earmarked $200
million in venture capital for digital-home investments. The
iPod is now a core product for Apple. Dell is marketing its
products for use in home entertainment. Gateway is selling
plasma TVs and building new entertainment-oriented PCs.
Microsoft is throwing a lot of weight behind its Media
Center operating system, which transforms a typical PC into
an entertainment center. Venture capitalists don't have a
track record of funding consumer electronics startups but
with many traditional technology sectors slowing down or
reaching maturity, the consumer market could soon become
a top priority.
Nonvolatile MEMS Memory
isk drives are cheap and hold a lot of data. But their
spinning platters and appetite for power make it prob-
lematic to strap one to your arm when you're jogging.
That's why almost ever y CD player, digital camera and
other portable device on the market uses shockproof flash
memor y chips.
The downside is that flash memor y costs much more
than disk drives and holds much less. State-of-the-ar t
disk drives of fer 80-100 Gbytes on a 3.5-inch platter,
often for under $100. By comparison, Toshiba and
SanDisk recently announced a 0.5-Gbyte flash chip that
may be available in the $100 range later this year.
Nanochip says it has come up with an alternative to
flash memor y and the high expense of the lithography
technology that goes with it. The company's eponymous
Nanochip is a data-storing microelectromechanical
system. The semiconductor-like MEMS chip fits in the
same sor t of removable memor y card that is now stan-
dard issue in most portable devices.
At the heart of each Nanochip is an array of thousands
of atomic-scale "probe tips" bonded onto a storage-
media wafer. The tips, with points just 25 nanometers
wide, function like tiny pencils, inscribing information
electronically onto the storage layer.
In concept, the system is much like a disk drive. But
Nanochips are just as stable as flash memor y, the com-
pany claims, and in early tests the chips have been able to
hold as much as a terabit per square inch. "That's where
disk drives are hoping to get to by 2010," says CEO
Gordon Knight. And that's 500 times more dense than
IC RATING (scale 110)
Nanochips are just as stable as flash
memory alternatives and 500 times
more dense, the company claims.