This content is from: Portfolio

Nanotechnology Didn’t Shrink and Disappear; In Fact, It’s Everywhere

Nanotechology, which involves controlling matter at the molecular and atomic levels, was a much-hyped investment theme a decade ago. It’s since become widely used in commercial products ranging from solar panels to semiconductors, but investing in nanotech requires patience.

  • Nick Rockel

Remember when nanotechnology was the next big thing? A decade ago investors went wild over this emerging field, which entails playing with matter at the molecular and atomic levels to make, say, faster semiconductors or targeted drug treatments. But nanotech outlived the hype, quietly becoming part of everything from clothing to solar panels. “Nanotech has been subsumed into the fabric of many technologies in a way that’s, frankly, quite invisible to the end consumer,” says Steve Jurvetson, managing director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a Menlo Park, California–based venture capital shop with $7 billion under management. Estimates of the market for nanotech products vary, but they’re often eye-popping: Farmington, Connecticut–based Global Information projects that it will hit $3.3 trillion by 2018.

For investors, though, the journey from lab to marketplace can be long. Venture capital firm Canaan Partners first invested in Branford, Connecticut’s Marinus Pharmaceuticals, which is developing a new drug delivered via nanoparticles, back in 2005. Stephen Bloch, a Westport, Connecticut–based partner with $3.4 billion Canaan, notes that this treatment is only now in Phase 2 of clinical trials. “We’re going through a period where people are still figuring out what the best product iterations are, how to manufacture these things at scale,” Bloch says.