Nanova – Columbia (Where are they now?)

Asian man in blue shirt with red tie

Dr. Hao Li, associate professor in MU’s College of Engineering, co-founder of high-tech biomaterials firm Nanova Inc.

Updates to Nanova’s story:

With the help of the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers, Nanova Inc. was incorporated in 2007 by Dr. Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU’s College of Engineering; Dr. Qingsong Yu, MU associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Dr. Meng Chen, Nanova chief scientist; and Dr. Kenneth Lambert, an orthopedic doctor.

Li and his partners’ research on nanostructured materials, composites and medical devices has led to genuine breakthroughs in orthopedics, dentistry and cardiovascular science. This newsletter described on some of these breakthroughs in a 2008 success story.

In late March 2013, Nanova signed agreements with the WuJin Economic Development District and Chinese venture capital firms to produce absorbable bone screws and dental products based upon the company’s core nanomaterial technology.

The Chinese venture capitalists will invest an estimated $7 million in the joint venture, $4 million directly in the firm’s Columbia operations in the next two years, said Li. Most of the firm’s domestic manufacturing and sales will be conducted in Columbia.

At the ceremony held at MU to commemorate the investment, Li said the partners received multiple investment offers but were waiting for investors who could move the firm’s products to commercialization.

Dr. Jim Gann, technology business specialist with the MU SBTDC, has advised Li and Yu since the business was founded. Gann and a team of MO SBTDC technology business specialists including Denise Fields of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) SBTDC and Bill Stuby of the MO SBTDC’s sister program, the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, previously helped the scientists with business planning and development. This included conducting intensive market research, obtaining federal Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and National Institutes of Health funding and facilitating introductions to key stakeholders in Columbia and in Missouri.

Hao. Li in while coat in lab with scientific equipment

Through his R&D efforts, the engineer/entrepreneur Hao Li and his business partners are using nano-technology to develop cutting edge medical and dental devices.

“Denise [Fields] has been so helpful. She helped me get connected with investors and advised me on many things I didn’t know much about, like financing. And Jim [Gann] has been very helpful on the SBIR applications — they’ve just helped us with a broad variety of things.”
Dr. Hao Li, co-founder of Nanova Inc.

Nanova’s bone screws and dental fillings are made of polymers and tiny strands called nanofibers. These fibers, composed of calcium phosphate, the same material as bone and tooth minerals, can be 1,000 times smaller than a human hair. Because they are so small and so dense, nanofibers are also incredibly tough, much stronger than stainless steel. A single nanofiber is very, very weak.

Nanova researchers and scientists from the UMKC School of Dentistry and the University of Tennessee-Memphis are also working on commercializing what’s called an atmospheric cold plasma brush. Non-thermal plasma, which is a partially ionized medium like gas generated by electrical discharge, contains energetic electrons, ions, chemically reactive radicals and ultraviolet; these plasma components rapidly destroy harmful microorganisms and have enormous potential in dentistry. Clinical trials with the brush have already been conducted. It will be ready for FDA clearance in a year or so, said Li.

These products, and others in development such as a new type of coronary stent, could transform dentistry, orthopedic surgery and cardiovascular medicine as we know them.

And that’s both a problem and an opportunity. “It will take a lot of effort,” said Li. “We’ll have to educate the dentist, the orthopedist, the cardiovascular specialist that there is a better way, and that could take time and be very expensive.”

At the ceremony, Li said he was very grateful to all Nanova’s partners for their investment, business acumen and enthusiasm. “For success in business in the long term, the right team is at least as important as money,” he said.

Nanova update May 2014

Nanova co-founder Dr. Hao Li wins the President’s Award for Economic Development


Dr. Hao Li, associate professor in the University of Missouri Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, co-founder and president of Nanova, Inc., has won the President’s Award for Economic Development.

The $5,000 award recognizes faculty for distinguished activity in meeting the university’s goal of serving as an economic engine for the state through entrepreneurial innovation. The awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the University of Missouri System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university.

Nanova, Inc., founded in 2008 with assistance from the BDP, produces orthopedic, dental and cardiovascular devices using biocomposite and non-thermal plasma technologies, an outgrowth of Li’s and other professors’ ground-breaking research. In 2013, Nanova secured Chinese venture capital and is currently building a 6,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Columbia expected to employ 20 individuals by 2015.

The firm has received FDA approval and plans to launch its first medical device this year. Read the MU news release.

Nanova update November 2014

The right team is as important as money. Biomaterials firm begins manufacturing dental varnish, plans to add 50 jobs.

We’ve provided regular updates on Nanova Biomaterials Inc., incorporated in 2007 with the help of the BDP’s Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center, but this might be the best yet: Nanova has begun manufacturing its first product, a fluoride dental varnish called StarBright, in its northeast Columbia facility after receiving FDA clearance. The company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its 6,000-square-foot, $1.5 million facility in October.

Dr. Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU’s College of Engineering and Nanova co-founder, said in a recent interview he hopes to have the varnish on the market by year’s end.

The company uses nanotechnology, which is the manipulation of material on a molecular and atomic level to produce particles with new properties. The dental varnish, for example, contains more fluoride molecules than other products on the market. Nanova is also working on new biofillers for cavities and a bone screw.

Nanova update November 2015

Got cavities? There’s an innovative, MU-developed solution for that.

We first profiled Nanova and Dr. Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU’s College of Engineering and Nanova co-founder in 2008 and most recently a year ago.

Last November we reported the firm had begun manufacturing its first product, a fluoride dental varnish called StarBright, in northeast Columbia.

Now Nanova has received FDA approval to market a nanofiber-reinforced composite called NovaPro Flow to restore dental fillings.

Both products use nanotechnology, the manipulation of material on a molecular and atomic level, to produce particles with new properties, in this case dramatically stronger dental products. Once hardened, the nanofibers in NovaPro Flow are reportedly as solid as concrete, ensuring greater longevity than other dental products now on the market and allowing patients to go longer before replacing fillings.

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