[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Steven has over 20 years of nanotechnology experience beginning with his graduate work at Rice University where he discovered a method of fabricating gold nanoshells. This discovery led to the formation of Nanospectra Biosciences where the gold nanoshells are in clinical trials as a cancer therapy. In 2004 he founded nanoComposix to accelerate the commercialization of products based on precisely engineered and highly characterized nanoparticles. Steven has 10 issued patents and over 40 papers in the area of nanotechnology.

What is nanotechnology? 

Nanotechnology is the study and the application of really small things. What's exciting about nanotechnology is that it's not just about making things smaller, it’s that at the nanoscale materials are different, allowing for the production of products with amazing new properties.

How did nanotechnology become your passion?

When I graduated from university in Canada, Rice University had one of the first nanotechnology degree programs, so it was an opportunity to explore something that was new and different. I spent five years in an exciting and innovative lab that used lasers and surface science tools to explore the fundamental properties of nanomaterials and their applications. The materials we were studying had novel and unusual properties and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to create useful products. After graduating from Rice, I went to a small company here in San Diego, learned how to leverage government grants and different small business programs to fund commercialization projects and then started nanoComposix 15 years ago.

What is nanoComposix’ primary mission?

The primary mission of nanoComposix is to help people leverage the unique and important properties of nanomaterials into commercial products. We've had many successes and failures so that we can help our customers determine if they have a good idea. If so, we can help guide them through the process of completing the research and development, make the materials in a consistent and reliable way, and importantly, scale up production to make the particles at a cost point that's going to be commercially viable. Once these tasks are complete, the materials can be integrated into a final product that will have a high probability of commercial success.

Who are your main customers?

Our customers are from both the R&D community (universities, government labs, corporate research) and companies that want to bring a nano-enabled material to market. By using our particles as building blocks they don’t have to make all of the different component nanoparticles themselves; we can provide precisely engineered particles in terms of size, shape and surface and, most importantly, we extensively characterize them. Once they have that combination of particles and information, they can create something new with their ideas.

What kind of innovation are your products bringing to the market? 

A lot of our products take advantage of the unusual properties of gold and silver at the nanoscale.  Very small particles of gold and silver act as nanoscale antennas – they strongly interact with light.  The color of these particles is a function of their size and shape.  Small gold spheres will be ruby red in color like a glass of wine.  Small silver spheres will be bright yellow.

One example where these particles are used is in lateral flow assays. The most common example of this is a drug store based pregnancy test.  In this test, you will typically see one or two red lines.  If you see two lines you’re pregnant.  If you just see one line then you’re not.  The red color comes from 40 nm diameter gold nanoparticles with an antibody attached to the particle surface.  It’s probably the most common nanotechnology application that nobody knew was nano. We’re developing a wide range of lateral flow tests for applications that range from early cancer detection to diagnosis of neglected tropical diseases.  For example, we're making a test for military use to see if a soldier has been exposed to a dangerous chemical in the field.  This test looks at heart, liver and kidney biomarkers to see if the solider needs medical attention. Other nanoparticle applications that we’re currently helping with include topical therapeutics for the treatment of acne, photothermal treatments of cancer, and cures for common allergies.

Where do we use nanotechnology in our everyday lives, and are not even aware of it? 

Many televisions incorporate nanoparticles into their screens to produce more vibrant colors.  The increased color depth of reds, blues and greens is made possible by quantum dot nanoparticles. Computer chips and electronics include various nanotechnologies that range from the processors themselves to the adhesives and other components used to build electronics.  In the medical space, nanomedicine allows for the precision delivery of drugs to certain organs and the controlled release of drugs over time to reduce the frequency of doctor’s visits.

How could nanotechnology serve us even better? What are some future uses? 

Personal, immediate, inexpensive home based diagnostic tests are rapidly being developed.  For example, if you have chest pain it could be a muscle cramp or a precursor to something more serious, perhaps a heart attack. Typically, you would have to find a clinic, get a blood test and wait a couple of days to hear an answer,  but if you have a test in your bathroom that costs just a couple dollars, you can take a saliva sample, apply it to the test, and, in a few minutes, get a result that can be analyzed and interpreted by your cell phone.  Bringing inexpensive, quantitative, quick and easy to perform tests into the home is going to revolutionize how we diagnose and treat disease.

Another example is our work with Drugs and Diagnostics for Tropical Diseases (DDTD.org) on coendemic diseases that can be treated with an inexpensive drug. The problem is that if you're infected with multiple diseases at the same time and you take the drug, you can have severe consequences. If there was a simple test that determined which diseases you were infected with and what drug to safely take, then there is an $1 solution to solving an array of horrific diseases.  DDTD has delivered tens of thousands of tests to Africa, and they're being evaluated in clinical trials to understand how to use these diagnostics to finally address loiasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), lymphatic  filariasis, buruli ulcer and other diseases that don't belong in this century and should be eradicated.

We’re also working with a company that has developed a novel acne treatment.  They apply nanoparticles that strongly absorb light to the skin and use a massager to send the particles into the acne lesion.  When you shine a laser on the skin, the laser penetrates through the skin, gets absorbed by the particles, and heats the particles. This local heating is a non-chemical way of damaging or ablating cells.  For the acne treatment, if the number of cells in the sebaceous gland (which is responsible for oil production) can be reduced, your acne lesion will clear.

There's a compliment to the acne technology in the cancer space. Instead using radiation and chemotherapy that have harmful side effects, nanoparticles can be injected to the tumor sites and irradiated with a laser.  Just heat (no chemicals) ablate the cancer cells and prostate cancer patients are walking out of the clinic the same day with no side effects. Nanoparticles are also useful for delivering drugs.  Chemotherapy is a sledgehammer approach to cancer. Let's poison ourselves just to the limit that we can stand, and then hopefully it gets the tumor. It would be so much better if we could send the chemical that we want right to the tumor location, reduce the dose by a factor of 10, have all the side effects go away, and still have effective treatment. That's the promise, and while it takes a long time to safely bring it to market, many nano enabled therapies will soon be available.

If lateral flow tests are simple and not costly, how come their use is not more common?

Lateral flow tests aren't new. They've been around for 20 years.  Our innovation was to develop more sensitive reporter particles that allow for lateral flow tests to be more widely used.  We went back and re-engineered the particle, so instead of gold spheres, we made a nanoshell which is like a golden eggshell; a glass core that is coated with a very thin shell of gold.  By controlling the size of the core and the thickness of the shell, we can create different colors and increase the sensitivity of diagnostic tests.  Combining mobile cell phone technology with these new, high sensitivity tests offers the promise of a quantitative diagnostic laboratory in your home.

What was your biggest breakthrough in commercializing nanotechnology?

Our breakthrough is the ability to produce nanoparticles with exquisite control over their size, shape, and surface at a commercially viable price.  Rods, shells, cubes, plate, and wire shaped nanoparticles with different surfaces are provided to innovators and inventors so that they can modify, combine, and augment the materials for use in commercial applications.  We are also focused on reducing cost.  Gold and silver nanoparticles have special properties but these materials are expensive.  Our challenge is to find a balance between function, price, performance and scalability in order to get to commercial markets.  We’ve had a lot of success achieving this balance in medical device and nanomedicine markets.

What is your next challenge?

It's been 15 years since we started the company, but a lot of that work has been foundational to build a library of nanomaterials, develop relationships and scale manufacturing.  Our next step is to leverage these capabilities to bring more high impact nano-enabled products to market.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="20px"][grve_callout title="Tech Spotlight Interviews" heading_tag="h4" button_text="Learn More" button_link="url:http%3A%2F%2Finfo.managedsolution.com%2Fc-level-interview-registration|||"]IT is a journey, not a destination. We want to hear about YOUR journey!
Are you a technology innovator or enthusiast?
We would love to highlight you in the next edition of our Tech Spotlight.[/grve_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Lillian Maestas has more than twenty-five years hands-on experience in software engineering, project development, management and business development. She has led large software projects in integrated product team environments and has managed design and development of advanced commercial and military information systems.

Knowledge Made Solutions Inc was founded in 2008 in San Diego, CA. It is a Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) providing high quality Engineering Services to the US Government and Commercial Contractors. They specialize in Software and System Engineering Services and related disciplines including Software Application Development, Hardware Software Integration, Technical Project Management, Test Engineering, Quality Assurance, Configuration Management, Information Assurance and Technical Writing.

Your interest in computer science goes back into your college days. What sparked the interest?

I was a typical student in high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do for a career. I sought the advice of my student counselor and she said, “Well, you're good at math, what about computer science?” I said, “What's that?” She said, “Well, it's a new field that's just starting,” and “Since you're good at math, I think it can be a good fit for you.” So, I said, “Okay.”

It was challenging in several ways. One, my computer science classes had only two or three females to start, and then after four, five weeks they would drop out, and I'd be the only female. Where in high school I predominately studied with females, I had the challenge to ask the males if I could join their study group. As well the professors were all male. Two, the subject itself was a challenge, but I just kept at it, because I found it interesting. This is when the computers, they call them the mainframes, were large and you would write your program on punch cards. Each statement of your program would be on a card so you ended up with a stack of cards for the entire program. I remember I put the card deck in my car and while driving home I braked too fast, and the cards went flying. I had to retype the program to get the cards in the right order. This meant I had to find a time slot opening in the lab to retype the program. I learned quickly to put a rubber band around my cards.

What made you stay in computer science?

Directly out of college I worked for General Dynamics in a field service position in Nevada developing software, again I was the only female on this project. We were tracking military exercises and we'd replay the results of their exercises of who killed who in a debrief center. I did the software development for that. We also tracked the first launch of the Tomahawk cruise missile. They launched it off the coast in the Pacific and it made its way all the way to Tonopah Test Range where we were working, and hit its target right on. I found doing the software development for this exciting and fun.

How you support women in STEM?

Since I do business development and also look for the resources to fill positions for Knowledge Made Solutions I definitely look for and support hiring women that are qualified.

I'm also a volunteer and STEM Chair with NDIA, National Defense Industrial Association. About 10 years ago, we recognized the shortage in the STEM educated workforce, both male and female and got involved doing outreach to students to get them interested in STEM and IT. In the beginning I noticed only males showing up to our outreach events, that's when one of my goals became to get girls to attend and for the Cyber cup event to get an all girls team. And we made it happen in one year.

What opportunities are there for women in cyber security?

There are many opportunities for women, many are technical but there's many other aspects to the cybersecurity field, so you don't necessarily have to be an engineer designing hardware, circuits or software. For example, behavioral analyst who determine why and what drives hackers are needed to provide this information to others who can put technical controls in place to monitor for suspicious behaviors based on patterns. Or lawyers, who are knowledgeable in cybersecurity policies. I'm definitely seeing more women entering this field, I see them at Cybersecurity meetings, and I love the encouragement from our male colleagues in supporting women. I see a lot of that, which is awesome.

What is the mission of Knowledge Made Solutions? 

We're a veteran owned small business that provides engineering and high-tech services to the Department of Defense. Our mission is to provide excellent engineering in software, systems engineering, and cybersecurity.

How do you contribute to that mission? 

I look for opportunities that are good fit for the company, meaning IT and engineering tasks where our experience and expertise can provide best of breed solutions and services. I also look at teaming relationships with other companies where we can complement their team with our expertise or they complement us.

How have cyber-attacks changed over time?

Going back to the 80s and the 90s, the cyber incidences were not very frequent. Now we're hearing about significant attacks every month, actually cyber security incidences are happening every minute. That's the big difference that I've seen. Also, hackers now want a ransom for return of your information. It’s not so much that they want that information, but knowing you do they hold it up for ransom. Where early on hackers actually wanted the secret or proprietary information they stole, such as designs, algorithms, etc.

How will cyber-attacks evolve in the future?

Medical devices are an interesting area. What's the purpose to hack into somebody's medical device? Probably not to get secrets, but to do harm if you don't pay them.

What are 3 steps every company should take to protect themselves against cyber-attacks? 

The first one is to do an assessment of your IT and your data. Know what you have. Step two, determine what controls are needed. You need to start setting your priorities, putting more controls in place is good, but you might not be able to do it all at once. So you prioritize. Third step is the awareness. A lot of breaches happen because employees are not aware that their actions open up ways for hackers to get in.

What is SoCal Cyber Cup?

SoCal Cyber Cup is a Cybersecurity challenge for middle school and high school students. They get paired with a mentor from DOD industry and government to work on different cybersecurity challenges for 6 months. The kids are exposed to threats and vulnerabilities and work with the latest technologies to find, remove and recover within what we call a cyber range. A safe place that won’t create real problems while they learn. This year we had the Cyber Range in the cloud. This also allows us to reach a larger group of kids. We've had kids return for all four of their high school years to participate in the cyber cup challenge and after they come back as mentors and sponsors. We’ve also seen several kids get very good positions at local companies based on the experience and knowledge they gained through the cyber cup challenge.


What is your next challenge?

I want to see more kids from underserved areas get involved in STEM and the SoCal Cyber Cup to show them the opportunity this filed offers for their future. Recently NDIA is participating in a program called “STEM in your backyard", we go out to schools in underserved areas and talk to kids about STEM. Our goal is to have 50% of teams from these areas at our next SoCal Cyber Cup.


Read more interviews like this: https://managedsolut.wpengine.com/category/c-level-interviews/[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="20px"][grve_callout title="Tech Spotlight Interviews" heading_tag="h4" button_text="Learn More" button_link="url:http%3A%2F%2Finfo.managedsolution.com%2Fc-level-interview-registration|||"]IT is a journey, not a destination. We want to hear about YOUR journey!
Are you a technology innovator or enthusiast?
We would love to highlight you in the next edition of our Tech Spotlight.[/grve_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Contact us Today!

Chat with an expert about your business’s technology needs.