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Monday, March 07, 2005

Nanomix appears to have Right Mix

Earlier today, Nanomix, a leader in the development of carbon nanotube-based nanoelectronics sensors announced the close of a $16 million round of funding. The development should be heeded by nanotech investors because it suggests that the company is one step closer to a commercial product—and, possibly, an IPO.

The company is reportedly preparing to launch devices that harness the features of nanoelectronics. While company executives aren’t discussing what the device will do, my guess is that its first commercial product will be some type of chemical or gas sensor.

The market for chemical and gas sensors is estimated to a multi-billion market and Nanomix’s sensors would appear to have a wealth of industrial applications in these markets. For instance, the gas and oil industry could employ its sensors throughout a refinery for industrial process control or to help monitor gas leaks and air-quality. Other potential applications, however, include pollution or pathogen detection, chemical detection in drinking water, and indoor air-quality sensing in schools.

Nanomix has also already successfully produced a medical capnography sensor (a small, inexpensive, easy-to-use device that can quickly and accurately detect if carbon dioxide is present). Such a device could have a variety of applications in the health care arena where medical personnel must monitor carbon dioxide. It has also successfully licensed field-emitting thick film materials containing carbon nanotubes to DuPont Electronic technologies. This technology could lead to high-quality, affordable flat panel televisions.

Nanomix’s sensors appear to have superior price/performance compared to traditional technologies, and its intellectual property portfolio, strong management and scientific teams all suggest that it well positioned for future growth. The company has not yet received any significant revenue from its licensing agreement with DuPont, nor has its medical capnography sensor yet been widely commercialized but this latest round of funding may help address some of these shortcomings.

The fact that Harris & Harris has joined existing investors, including: Seven Rosen Funds, EnerTech, Alta Partners and Apax Partners, provides another indication that the company is to track to commercialize its technology and become one of the first true nanotech companies to go public.

Moving forward, investors should watch for Nanomix to successfully create a hydrogen storage system. If it can it would represent a very significant long-term market—especially if fuel cell technology becomes prevalent in automobiles. Another area where Nanomix may be able to make some inroads is in the field of chemical and biological detection. Longer term, investors should watch if the company is able to develop system that can mimic the human sensory system, including an artificial nose and tongue.

Jack Uldrich

For investors interested in doing more research:

Nanomix, Inc.
5980 Horton Street
Emeryville, CA 94608
David Macdonald