Northwestern University nanotech researcher and entrepreneur Chad Mirkin has raised $5 million for a new startup.
Stoicheia aims to do for materials science what human genomics has done for drug discovery. It plans to build libraries of materials that would allow companies in industries from chemicals to automobiles to quickly identify candidates for new or better products or ways to improve manufacturing processes.
The Skokie-based company’s technology involves printing millions of tiny metal nanoparticles on a chip, enabling researchers to see how they affect particular chemical reactions under various conditions. The same process, called high-throughput screening, is used in drug discovery, dramatically reducing the time it takes to come up with successful candidates.
Stoicheia aims to help companies in industries such as energy, chemicals and automobiles find new catalysts, or the substances used to speed up chemical reactions that are at heart of product development and manufacturing. The idea is to bring “tools traditionally used in biology to materials science,” Mirkin says. He likens it to bringing “artificial intelligence to the periodic table of elements.”
The underlying technology was developed in Mirkin’s lab at Northwestern, where for two decades he has been working on nanoscale printing, which involves depositing molecular droplets of materials onto a surface to create tiny structures. He has founded a half-dozen startups in fields ranging from drug delivery to 3-D printing.
Investors in his new startup include Lou Simpson, a major Northwestern donor who has backed Mirkin before, along with Craig Mundie, former chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft; David Walt, founder of Illumina, a genetic-sequencing technology pioneer, and Kairos Ventures in Beverly Hills, Calif., as well as backers from the energy industry, such as Todd Mitchell, son of fracking pioneer George Mitchell.