Columbia, MU partner with Chinese investors to develop and market biomedical devices

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 | 8:50 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Chinese investors are backing an MU research start-up that wants to market medical innovations, including a dental tool that painlessly cleans cavities, plasma-coated coronary stents and super-strong bone implant materials. 

A Chinese firm announced Tuesday that it will invest $6 million in Nanova Inc., a local high-tech biomaterials firm started by MU engineering faculty that designs, patents and sells medical devices.

The investors from Changzhou, China, as well as MU and Columbia officials, have forged a collaboration to foster economic growth for both regions. The Chinese company, Summitview Capital, will help commercialize Nanova's products.

Nanova was founded on the MU campus in 2005 to design groundbreaking orthopedic, dental, cardiovascular and other devices for niche markets. The company has been focused on research and development and now wants to bring its products to a wide market.

Initially, Nanova was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health while mechanical and aerospace engineers at MU developed the medical and dental products. The investment from Summitview Capital is intended to help turn their research into a viable commercial enterprise. 

The MU research team includes Hao Li, a founder of Nanova and associate professor of engineering at MU; Qingsong Yu, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; and Meng Chen, chief scientist from Nanova Inc.

“We want to be a bridge between the United States and China,” Li said.

Among the most promising products is the cold plasma dental brush, which uses chemical reactions to disinfect and clean cavities for fillings in 30 seconds.

Clinical trials on the dental plasma brush are expected to be completed this June, according to, which tracks public and private studies on a wide range of diseases and conditions.

The brush uses plasma to painlessly repair teeth with longer-lasting bonding material, according to the researchers. Certain types of cavities have a short restoration period, causing fillings to fall out. The brush modifies the tooth to allow the filling to better adhere to the surface.

After the clinical trials are completed and reviewed, the next step would be to produce and distribute the products in both China and America.

In 2011, China was Missouri’s third-largest destination for exports, purchasing $1.2 billion in Missouri-made goods, according to the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

The Chinese visitors said Tuesday they were impressed with MU and Columbia.

“The academic atmosphere at the university gives me great hope for the future of our collaboration,” said Bin Zhou, speaking through a translator on behalf of the Chinese delegation.

Zhou said he looked forward to seeing the collaboration benefit both cities.

“Through our sincere cooperation, our futures will be very bright.”

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.


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