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Iowa Corn Promotion Board, NJIT to license breakthrough, safe bio-plastic alternative

The Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB), NJIT and University of Sao Paulo today announced a joint agreement for licensing four pending patents on a safe, building block chemical derived from corn known as isosorbide to chemists. The agreement marks a step forward in developing applications and markets for corn-based chemistry.

"This agreement gives us the exclusive right to work with companies interested in sub-licensing this technology to incorporate isosorbide into many products," said Rodney Williamson, ICPB Director of Research and Development. "Corn-based isosorbide can replace bisphenol A in baby bottles, infant toys and other products used by children. Exposure to bisphenol A has been linked to health problems and we feel confident that this is a safe alternative."

The agreement includes proprietary patent pending technologies to use corn derived isosorbide as a plasticizer, UV-absorbing product, and epoxy coating similar to the lining in soup cans.

Donald H. Sebastian, PhD, NJIT Senior Vice President for Research and Development hailed the agreement as an innovative approach to developing new biomaterials. "We are providing a renewable material for the polymer industry to benefit the environment and reduce US consumption of expensive imported petroleum," said Sebastian.

"I am happy to see this important project move forward," said Michael Jaffe, PhD, research professor, NJIT Department of Chemical Engineering. "Today petroleum products are used extensively to manufacture plastics, but this research has opened the way for us to substitute corn-derived isosorbide for the petroleum-based feedstock thus creating many potential opportunities as we move forward."

The agreement offers NJIT a chance to strengthen its commitment to developing new uses for corn. NJIT's research has been presented at several academic and industry forum recently, including the National Academy of Engineering, Winter 2007, the Corn Utilization Technology Conference, 2008, Iowa, the Society of Plastics Engineers' 2008 Global Polymer Environmental Conference, and the American Chemical Society's 2007 Green Chemistry Conference.

Since 2004, NJIT has received more than $1.5 million in research funding for this project from ICPB, US Department of Energy and US Department of Agriculture. Luiz H. Catalani, PhD, a professor in the department of chemistry at the University of Sao Paulo, was a member of the research team during his sabbatical year at NJIT.

The next step toward commercializing isosorbide use is to survey companies interested in licensing the technology, said Williamson. "We can envision ways that might work, and we look forward to discussing how to tailor the ICPB/NJIT isosorbide program to meet the needs of potential partners."


Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
New Jersey Institute of Technology

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