LOWELL -- UMass Lowell's Louis Petrovic describes the current nanotechnology boom in three words: "Small is good."
But the university is hoping that Encapsion, a new biopharmaceutical company spawned by research at UMass Lowell, will be big -- very big.
Formed last month by Dr. Jon Edelson of New York City, who had been working with UMass Lowell for about a year, Encapsion plans to use nanotechnology to create a small-scale delivery system that would be capable of more efficiently administering drugs or cosmetics, Petrovic said.
The technology was developed by UML professors Stephen McCarthy and Robert Nicolosi, and licensed to Edelson for commercial use.
Edelson said he became interested in nanotechnology while working on his last company, which was designing diagnostics for cancer care. He launched a nationwide search, looking for what he thought was the "best in class" for new nanotechnology products.
"My research brought me to UMass' doorstep," Edelson said. "From there I decided this was a good basis for forming a company."
Petrovic, the university's director of external funding, technology transfer and partnering, said Encapsion will set up in UML's "incubator" program for fledgling companies, while also maintaining an office in New York.
Petrovic described Edelson as a "very successful serial entrepreneur" and said the university has high hopes for Encapsion. UML will get royalties if and when Encapsion's products go to market.
"We hope they'll be successful and return some resources to Lowell," Petrovic said.
The university was the breeding ground for startups Konarka Technologies and Polnox, both of which now call Lowell home. Petrovic said he hopes Encapsion will also decide to establish a Lowell headquarters.
Edelson said no decisions have been made, but added that "we're anticipating having operations in Lowell initially, and I would expect long term."
For now, the company will continue to work with McCarthy and Nicolosi, Petrovic said. The technology has already been tested successfully on mice and pigs, but it will be a long -- and costly -- road to get any pharmaceutical products to market. Petrovic said other agricultural and industrial applications could come sooner.
Biopharmaceutical products could include creams or patches that would allow patients to more easily ingest substances such as insulin, Petrovic said. Nanotechnology would allow those substances to be encapsulated in a small sphere, then slowly released into the bloodstream.
"The small stuff really does do things that the same drug or chemical in a larger size will not do," Petrovic said.
Encapsion could provide a glimpse of UMass Lowell's future, as a planned $80 million nano-biotechnology facility, funded partially by the state, becomes closer to reality.
"There are things that are going on here that are really exciting," Petrovic said. "If we get the facility built, it will be good ... for things that are going to get licensed, for the creation of companies, and jobs for the people in the area. When you have competent, innovative people, you need facilities for them to work in."
Edelson said the new facility "might figure into the future" for Encapsion.
"I see it as an additional potential resource for what we're doing," he said. "I think it's the beginning of a very promising partnership."