Exclusive interview for SPINOFF.COM with Prof. (Emeritus) Aharon Gedanken, Kanbar Laboratory for Nanomaterials, Bar-Ilan University, about the technology that will help to grow hair on a bald surface using nanoparticles of minoxidil

This minoxidil based anti-baldness technology is a real breakthrough in the fight against alopecia. The team of professional scientists, under the strict supervision of Prof. Aharon Gedanken from the Department of Chemistry at Bar Ilan University in Israel, is now in the process of technology development. Such nanoparticle-based technology aims hair follicle, targeting at utilizing these interactions for therapeutic purposes, delivering functionalized particles selectively to the hair follicles or even to specific skin compartments and cell populations. Particle-based material targeting of hair follicles may include deposition of active minoxidil compounds in the follicular reservoir, targeting of active compounds to specific compartments within the follicular duct, e.g., sebaceous gland, stem cell region, or even targeting of specific cell populations such as perifollicular antigen-presenting cells. Professor Gedanken is sure that it will have a great success in the cosmetology because nobody tried to solve it at particle level before.  

SOC: Dear Professor Gedanken we are so grateful for your generosity this day in spending time speaking with us and sharing your insights about your breakthrough technology that will grow hair on a bald surface using nanoparticles of minoxidil. 

Professor Gedanken we know of your tremendous contribution into the Department of Chemistry at Bar Ilan University, and that you are the member of the Nano Materials Center at the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA), and a recipient of the President of Israel Achievement Award for coordination of a European Funded Research and much more but still our investors and I would like to learn more about your vast experience and your academic endeavours as well as your scientific background. 

Professor Gedanken: I received my M. Sc. from Bar-Ilan University and my Ph. D. degree from Tel Aviv University, Israel. I did my postdoctoral research at University of Southern California in Los Angeles. When I came back to Israel I got a lecturer position at Bar-Ilan University in October 1975. I spent two sabbatical years at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the 80s.  I also have done research at NIDDK, NIH in the 90s. In 1994 I switched my research interest from Spectroscopy to Nanotechnology. My special synthetic methods of nanomaterials include Sonochemistry, Microwave Superheating, Sonoelectrochemistry, and Reactions under Autogenic Pressure at Elevated Temperatures (RAPET). Since 2004 I was mostly focused on the applications of nanomaterials. I have served as the Department Chairman as well as the Dean of the Faculty of Exact Sciences at Bar-Ilan University. I was a partner in five EC (European Community) FP7 projects and coordinated one of them called SONO. This project was announced by the European community as a “Success Story”. I am a partner in PROTECT a textile project in Horizon 2020. I was the Israeli representative to the NMP (Nano, Materials, and Processes) committee of EC in FP7. I also was awarded the prize of the Israel Vacuum Society in 2009 and the Israel Chemical Society for excellence in Research in February 2013.

I've published close to 800 scientific paperspeer-reviewed manuscripts in international journals, and has applied for 38 Patents. My H-Index is 85 according to the WEB of SCIENCE. I am on the editorial boards of 4 international journals.

Now lets continue with my working background. I have made many discoveries including a process that removes heavy metals ions from polluted water using aquatic plants and microwave radiation - a fast and low-cost method for producing purified water on the one hand, and metallic nanoparticles on the other hand. I made a lot of research work in the fabrication of nanostructures with special properties such as antibacterial, antiviral (i.e. Swine influenza), antifungal and antibiofilm. I have discovered that ultrasound radiation can coat a large variety of solid surfaces such as metals, ceramics, polymers, glass, textiles, and even paper, enabling that we later impart a variety of properties to the solid. 

Once I was at the meeting with a prospective partner. Dutch fellow asked me what am I going to do in the next four years. I said that I will work on coating nanosilver on textiles. He said that I had nothing to do with silver research because the FDA doesn't approve silver and therefore I was out of interest by then. So I immediately decided to shift my research by studying Metal oxide such as Zinc oxide, which is known for its antibacterial properties. ZnO is a white powder that is insoluble in water, and it is widely used as an additive in numerous materials and products including rubbers, plastics, ceramics, glass, cement, lubricants, paints, ointments, adhesives, sealants, pigments, foods, batteries, ferrites, fire retardants, and first-aid tapes. We decided to continue the collaboration, so I remained in the project for four years.

First, we've built small machines for roll-to-roll coating using a sonochemical technique. At the end of this project, I have assembled a group of seven partners and applied to the EU community for a grant to build two large machines for coating roll-to-roll sonochemicals. The project was approved and started in October 2009 until September 2013. For this project, we received 12 million Euros to lead a four-year program that encompasses 17 textile manufacturers, universities, and government agencies in England, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, all working to commercialize his technique to coat and mass produce his antibacterial fabric. Universities involved in the project are Coventry University in the United Kingdom, and Universitat Polytechnica de Catalunia in Barcelona. According to the terms of the EU grant, the partners meet periodically in person to discuss their progress and plan the next steps. The vision behind the EC grant was the Hospital of the Future, in which all textiles such as bed sheets, pyjamas, pillow covers, curtains, doctors’ robes, are antibacterial.

In the course of the four years, we have also built two larger machines and what we have demonstrated during these four years that we can wash the coated textiles all 65 cycles in a hospital washing machines at temperatures of 75 °C to 92°C. When we took pictures of the coating fabrics we could clearly see that the nanoparticles remained on the surface due to the deep embedding of antibacterial nanoparticles in the textiles as well as its antibacterial properties that maintained even after 65 hospital washing machine cycles at 92°C

During the last four months of the project, the company that had these two large machines prepared 4.000 meters of cotton coated with copper oxide. One of seventeen partners was a confection company. It has made shirts and pants, netted bed shits, pillow covers, pajamas, beds with ZnO nanocoating.21 patients were sleeping and dressing the coated fabrics. The other group of patients was sleeping and wearing regular fabrics available in the hospital. The doctors examine the contamination of various bacteria in two groups. They took samples and they found clearly that there was a distinctive difference between those two groups. The first one, that wore and slept the coated cotton was less contaminated than the patients that wore and slept the regular fabrics. Now NanoTextile successfully commercialises this technology. 

Another project was aimed to coating a textile fabric with antiviral nanoparticles. Silver (or gold) nanoparticles that are capped with mercaptoethane sulfonate (Ag-MES) were used for this purpose. Effective inhibition of HSV-1 infection in cell culture by the capped nanoparticles was demonstrated, whereas application of the soluble surfactant MES was found ineffective. No toxic effects of these nanoparticles on host cells were observed. Lately, we have demonstrated that it can inhibit also the Influenza virus including the Swine Influenza.

Working together with Dr. Ehud Banin, I've also developed antibacterial and antibiofilm nanoparticles for coating the surface of catheters and other implanted medical devices. We have coated medical devices and wares such artificial teeth, contact lenses, catheters, hearing aids and silicone implants. All these medical devices showed clearly very good antibacterial behavior. With catheters, we had even carried out in vivo experiments at rabbits, which also showed us very good results in avoiding the contamination of the urine whilst flowing through the coated catheters.

Together with Prof. Shulamit Michaeli, I had also recently fabricated RNA-based nanoparticles that can “silence” specific genes and are kept stable at room temperature even after a week. As the pioneer of sonochemistry, I used my knowledge to produce micro and nano-vehicles that deliver antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs in a rapid-release mode. These drugs are encapsulated in proteinaceous micro and nanospheres.  Together with Prof. Yeshayahu Nitzan we have demonstrated that nanoparticles can kill pathogenic bacteria on direct contact.

In the field of renewable energy research, I've developed a microwave-based process that transforms consumers' cooking oils into biodiesel in 10 seconds for a stirred reaction, and 40 seconds for an unstirred reaction. First of all, let's speak about conventional supermarket oils. We have converted supermarkets' oil in a domestic microwave oven using a solid catalyst. In 10 seconds it was completely converted into biodiesel. The price of supermarket oil is almost twice the price of a litre of gasoline. For this reason, we decided to use cooking oils that we collected from restaurants and the result was the same positive.

I've also developed a one-step process of biodiesel production. We used microalgae grown in seawater together with CO2 released from a power station to convert all the lipids in the algae into biodiesel. We convert microalgae to biodiesel and to bioethanol. Recently, we have built a solar system that is placed at the top of the roof. The biodiesel is flowing through the system as the eco-solution that work 40 days continuously while converting microalgae into ethanol using solar energy. Ethanol is widely used in Brazil and in the United States to fill the tanks of the car replacing gasoline. Now I am applying for a patent for a novel fermentation process that converts glucose to bioethanol 2.5 times faster than the conventional fermentation process. we also have converted wastes into chemicals like Boronic acid using methods that we have developed.

I have continued my research in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Recently we have started to work on the new form of carbon that is called carbon dots, five nanometers particle made of carbon that emits light and has fluorescent qualities. We have succeeded in introducing not only to a cell but also to the nucleus of the cell. We have also quite a few applications using carbon dоts. We are the only one in the world who developed a doping of the carbon dots with metals like gallium etc. Due to such unique properties as size-dependent fluorescence, non-toxicity, biocompatibility, and easy accessibility, carbon quantum dots has a great number of potential applications in a range of fields from chemical sensing and imaging to catalysis and drug delivery. I think that this concludes what I've done and that's what I can to tell you about myself.

SOC: We see that you have just tremendous experience in different scientific projects and have done huge research work. Thank you for sharing a story of their creation, development and success. It is so interesting to know more about the process of your technology for growing hair on a bald surface using nanoparticles of minoxidil creation. Please tell on which stage your technology currently is? 

Professor Gedanken: Our current minoxidil nanoparticles technology for developing an anti-balding cream is at the very initial stage of deep research, but we are confident that it has a great potential. This is only the idea that's why we decided to ask SPINOFF.COM for technology fundraising. Nothing has been done so far.

Before this idea came we were approached by one cosmetic company to create anti-wrinkle cream based on nanoparticles of the Hyaluronic acid. Women all around the globe avoid wrinkles by using injecting of  Botulinum toxin or Botox and the Hyaluronic acid. The injecting is very expensive, for instance, one injecting costs $450 in Israel. The cream costs only $170 and women can use it for 2-3 months. Therefore, came the idea of preparing nanoparticles of the Hyaluronic acid and mix it with a cream. The cream must do the same job and save money on the injecting. The company that invested in the research, has licensed this technology and started selling the cream in Israel. It is an anti-wrinkle cream which contains nano-hyaluronic acid. The cosmetic company who took the licence is called Hava Zingenboim. Such a cream is not sold in the markets, but rather through the cosmeticians who distribute products of Zingenboim. The Minoxidil is sold in every pharmacy in Israel and abroad. But nobody used it in the way that we are going to implement in our project.

We are planning to prepare nanoparticles of minoxidil and mix it with the cream.  We have approached several companies and few private investors and asked for $40,000 for the half year preliminary research. The idea of converting minoxidil to nanoparticles might accelerate its activity and lower concentration of the compound will be used in order to get the desired property.

We have not written a patent for this project. It is so simple that we are afraid that somebody from China will prepare this cream. Therefore, I want to emphasize from the beginning that if we will be successful with this technology we aren't planning to patent it, because of its simplicity. But if it will be required we will apply for a patent.

SOC: In the formation of every scientific spinoff, one of the most important keys to success is the team. Could you please share some information about the team members who connected to this technology development and support you and the project? What are the key additions to the team needed in the short term?

Professor Gedanken:  There are 12 people in our team right now, five of them are PhD students. If I get money, I will dedicate the person who will work on the project. It is not very easy to find someone because I need to promise six months of employment. It is very difficult to find someone for six months. But that is my intention.

The head of the Laboratory is Dr Ilana Perelshtein. I have two Russian Professor. One of them is Professor Nina Perkas and the other is Professor Yuri Kotypin. There are Dr. Inhed Kabdha and Dr. Harry Sedhale from India in our team. We also have PhD students from Israel and Europe. So our team is international.

SOC: It is not a secret that the development of a new technology presupposes some problem. What problem are you intending to solve by creating your technology? What results are you planning to achieve? 

Professor Gedanken: Nobody had prepared nanoparticles of minoxidil before to use them in a cream for alopecia. The idea is that a nanoparticle consists of about 10.000 molecules of minoxidil. The effect of one nanoparticle will be 10 times stronger than individual molecules. That is the idea of creating nanoparticles of minoxidil and further to use it in cosmetology.

SOC: In order to understand the peculiarities of this particular spinoff our investors would like to know who owns the IP?

Professor Gedanken: Research & Development Co. Ltd (BIRAD) helped me to apply all my patents which are around 40. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bar-Ilan University that fosters the commercialization of the innovative technologies invented by the researchers at the university. BIRAD encourages scientists to promote and expand their research toward applied and industrial projects and is involved in patent development, application, and commercialization. 

SOC: What is the uniqueness of this product which you're trying to develop?

Professor Gedanken: As I explained you, minoxidil is well-known. But none of the products containing nanoparticles of minoxidil is available at the market or stated in the literature yet. So we think that this is the most USP of our technology and the subsequent product.

SOC: We wonder what is the actual addressable market for your technology and what are the current competitors there? Could you please share with us the results of the market studies, if there were any? What might be the barriers to entry this market?

Professor Gedanken: I think that all the bold people in the world might be interested in such cream. No market studies have been done yet, except the fact that minoxidil is sold very well and many cosmetic companies use it in their products.

SOC: Could you tell us all possible industries and fields of your technology application in the future?

Professor Gedanken: Cosmetics and beauty industry are potential fields where our product might be successfully applied.

SOC: It is very important to understand your particular vision about unique features of your technology. Why do you consider the major market players might be interested in investing in its development?

Professor Gedanken: The major market players might be interested in investing in my technology development because it is a unique product and nobody tried to discover and apply its unique properties of minoxidil at the nanoparticle level before.

SOC: Now we would like to refer the next very crucial question. Do you have your own unique strategy and which process do you consider your team is strong at?

Professor Gedanken: Of course, our team is strong in research and development. But I can reveal the features of this process for a potential investor only after signing the NDA in order to protect our investigations.

SOC: Yes, for this reason, we put all your contact details at the bottom of the page in such case so the prospective investors might contact you directly and you can sign the NDA with them in case they ask for more additional information. And it is interesting to know some information about protection plan for your technology?

Professor Gedanken: I won't write a patent. But in case the investor thinks otherwise we can discuss it personally.

SOC: Are you seeking the investment for your technology development at the moment?

Professor Gedanken: Yes. I am looking for $40.000 for half a year project to produce the active cream and to evaluate its effectiveness.  In Bar Ilan University everything goes through the BIRAD company responsible for patenting and commercialization. When the investor comes he should first contact me than to sign the contract with this company and discuss all financial issues concerning commercialization.

SOC: Could you please describe the ideal investor for such case?

Professor Gedanken: The ideal investor is one who wants to invest money in a research which can be further become a commercial product.  

SOC: What is the most convenient way you would like to receive inquiries from potential investors? 

Professor Gedanken: Any convenient way to the investor will be fine for me. It could be either email, skype or personal call. I don't mind at all.

Telephone: + 972-3-531-8315

Email: gedanken@mail.biu.ac.il

Skype:   gedanken5

Dear Professor Gedanken I would like to express gratitude for the time you have dedicated to this interview with SPINOFF.COM. We also thankful for all provided materials. We are pleased to forward the interview to all potential investors and partners and will observe the development and success of your technology with great pleasure and interest.