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University of Missouri

From Lab to Marketplace

Company formed from MU research makes first product in Columbia.

Nanova Lab

Nanova Biomaterials Inc. is manufacturing a dental varnish in its new Columbia plant. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

Hao Li wasn’t satisfied with finding success in his lab. He wanted to succeed in business, too. Now, the associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering is one step closer to his goal.

Since coming to Mizzou in 2005, Li has been designing groundbreaking dental, cardiovascular and orthopaedic devices using nanotechnology and plasma technology. In 2007, with the help of the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers, Li; Qingsong Yu, MS ’95, PhD ’98, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; and two other researchers incorporated Nanova. In 2013, Nanova secured a $7 million investment from the Chinese venture capital firm SummitView Capital to form a subsidiary company, Nanova Biomaterials Inc. (NBI).

In October 2014, NBI held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its 6,000-square-foot, $1.5 million plant at 3806 Mojave Court in Columbia where the company is manufacturing its first product, a dental varnish called StarBright. The next product NBI wants to bring to market is a plasma dental brush that can improve the bonding of dental filling and make it last longer. NBI currently employs 13 people. Li hopes to grow to 50 jobs in the next five years.