Nanoco Group PLC (LON:NANO) Chief Executive Officer Michael Edelman caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss the highlights from their half-year results, the scale up and mass production of novel nano-particles for advanced electronics, commercialising their technology, progress and strategy in their other markets and the outlook for the rest of the year.
Q1: Michael, can you give us some highlights from your recently released half-year results?
A1: We have great momentum right now, we signed a game-changing contract with a large US corporation in nanomaterials and we have steady progress in our display business with a number of programmes moving through to mass production. We made excellent progress with our lighting and life science businesses, really exemplified by a signed materials supply and license deal with CareWear for medical devices. We’ve had continued positive life sciences results and initial traction in horticultural lighting and finally, we finished the period end with £8.7 million of cash in the bank and this doesn’t include any cash coming in from R&D tax refunds nor our US partner. So, really a period of great momentum.
Q2: In last month’s interview, we briefly talked about your new partnership with a US-listed company for the scale up and mass production of novel nano-particles for advanced electronics. Can you give us an update on how you’re progressing, and can you talk us through the key milestones in the process of scaling up and moving to production?
A2: Well, we’re progressing rapidly and the programme, I’m really pleased, is on schedule, we have a new manufacturing plant up and running to commence commercial supply in January 2019, there’s a huge amount to do. The milestones specifically relate to delivering the new nanomaterials manufacturing facility design, fit-out, commissioning and validation of volume produced nano-particles.
As I mentioned, there’s a huge amount to do over a short amount of time because commissioning a new factory is a big deal, but the team is very focussed, we’re working in very close collaboration with our US partner and we are on schedule.
Q3: Can you also talk us through what’s happening in commercialising your technology for the display market and when would expect first products containing your technology to be in the market?
A3: In display, we’ve made steady progress, albeit a bit slower than we had anticipated in the commercialisation of our display technology. We’ve learned that the development cycle for new products and display take a long time, sometimes up to 24 months but I’m pleased to say that we expect to see our first products hitting the market this year, 2018.
These initial products will come from Taiwanese-based panel marker AUO and our focused on the fast-growing gaming monitor market. I think we reported before that we have focussed our efforts on the Taiwanese players in the display market as they’re very interested in moving forward with cadmium-free quantum dots. They don’t produce TV’s under their own brand but sell to all the major brands so really, we are making good progress.
Q4: Can you summarise your progress and strategy in your other markets of horticultural lighting, medical devices and life sciences?
A4: We’ve made excellent progress in life sciences where we’ve begun to receive positive feedback from the large pharmaceutical CRO, contract research organisation, Covance. They are repeating all of our toxicology studies that were done with our life sciences partner, University College of London and validating the non-toxic nature of our materials and those results are coming back very favourable. So, that work needs to be done before filing with the FDA, EMA and going ‘first in man’ for Phase I clinical studies.
In horticultural lighting, we’re progressing commercial sales and we’re really focussed in the niche area of vertical farming which we believe is an area of explosive growth in the near future.
So, very excited about these two areas. Strategically, life sciences will most likely be spun out of Nanoco as we are in electronic materials business. The skill set required to commercialise life sciences is very different, but we’d spin it out, create a vehicle in which we have a large share and fund it privately through venture capital.
Q5: Talking about cash, you raised £8 million cash in November 2017, can you give investors some comfort that you’re not going to be returning to the market for further funding?
A5: Yes, as you pointed out, we finished the period with £8.7 million of cash in the bank, we have a further £3.1 million cash due from HRMC in the form of R&D tax refund over the coming year, just over the year, that’s made up of two payments and we also have significant amount of cash beginning to flow in from our US nanomaterials partners.
So, we’re really comfortable with our cash position and have no plans to come back to the market.
Q6: How would you sum up Nanoco Group’s progress in the first half of the financial year and the outlook for the rest of the year?
A6: Well, with great momentum but worth touching on 2017 which was a challenging year for Nanoco, a year where we worked very hard to reduce our cost base from £1.1 million per month to just under £700,000 per month. We raised £8 million at the end of the year, at the end of 2017 to strengthen the balance sheet but we enter 2018 with a great momentum. We signed this transformative US nanomaterials contract, our displays sales are starting to move most notable through AUO and lighting and life sciences businesses are beginning to deliver value.
So, we’re really very confident and hugely excited about the near and long-term prospects for Nanoco and we seem to have this great momentum moving forward so we’re tremendously excited.