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Pure Plastics Pitch Proves Perfect

Revolutionary, Safe Plastics Technology Behind Best Inventor Pitch for U-Md. Bioscience Day

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Nov. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A University of Maryland professor who invented a new technology enabling him to develop an infinite variety of safe, pure plastics won the attention of a group of venture capitalists and the title of "Best Inventor Pitch" at Bioscience Day 2007, held Nov. 13.

Sponsored by the university's Office of Technology Commercialization, the College of Chemical and Life Sciences, and MTECH Ventures, the "Professor Venture Fair" was a new event at the university's annual Bioscience Day and gave faculty inventors the opportunity to pitch their new technologies to a team of nine venture capitalists from Maryland and Virginia. Presenters were judged based upon clarity of pitch, commercial viability, and licensing potential. The event was hosted by Terry Chase Hazell, president and CEO of SD Nanosciences Inc., a locally based, start-up biotechnology company.

Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Lawrence Sita won for a technology he's developed over eight years enabling him to produce pure plastic products, with no additives or as blends, in an infinite variety of forms.

"This award validates my interest to further develop this technology for commercial applications," says Sita. "Having the opportunity to vet this invention through venture capitalists is significant, as they represent field experts you are likely to do business with in the future."

Through a single catalyst and processes protected under four patents, Sita can produce polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and other polyolefin-based plastics from oil-derived raw materials that are 100 percent recyclable and require no chemical additives to achieve a wide range of properties of technological importance. Both PE and PP-based materials are also currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for internal and external medical use and have no known associated health risks.

Sita can direct this new technology using a single catalyst to prepare a wide variety of end-products that include oils, adhesives, coatings, films, fibers, rubber, and both rigid and flexible plastics without having to rely on chemical additives or other blending agents to impart the range of physical properties accessible.

"The traditional paradigm for developing new plastic grades is to use a trial-and-error approach, which might involve taking thousands of catalysts and screening them in the hopes that you find one to make a specific grade of PE- or PP-based plastic," Sita explains. That process can take years.

"If you tell me you need adhesives with a specific set of characteristics, we can generate ten different materials around these target parameters within a couple of days--without having to go back to the drawing board each time," says Sita.

Plastics with potentially dangerous additives have been banned in 41 countries, as well as in California, leaving a gap for new products. Sita hopes to fill that void by launching a company around his technology, which he would license from the University of Maryland.

Sita's work is funded by over $1 million in grant funds from the National Science Foundation and $50,000 from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). W.R. Grace also supported a graduate student intern to study potential the commercial viability of his catalyst technology in a close partnership with Sita and the University of Maryland.

Sita's mentors have included 2005 Nobel Prize Winners Robert H. Grubbs and Richard R. Schrock, from the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively.

Judges for the Best Inventor Pitch included: Joe Del Guercio, managing director for CNF Investments; Mark Frantz, General Partner for RedShift Ventures; Christine Copple, president and CEO of Starise Ventures; George Pipia, Sr., manager of business development for MedImmune Inc.; Robb Doub, managing director of New Markets Growth Fund; Evan Jones, principal of jVen Capital; and Jigar Raythatha, principal of Red Abbey Ventures.

The Best Inventor Pitch is part of the University of Maryland's annual Bioscience Research & Technology Review Day, a special event featuring research talks, presentations, mini-symposia and demonstrations by university scientists. The program provides a unique opportunity for executives and professionals in industry and government to discover the most recent advances in bioscience and biotechnology at the University of Maryland; to promote the potential for academic-industry-government collaboration; to meet University scientists and interact with graduate student researchers; to network with colleagues who share an interest in the promotion of bioscience and the bioscience industry; and to recruit employees and investigate job opportunities.

SOURCE Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute
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