Marty Griffin and his colleagues at Accurate Polymers Ltd. near Chicago say they have invented a better bead. Their 1-micron bead, used for purifying antibodies, has a high binding capacity, and because it is not a bacterial protein, Griffin says users can sidestep problems associated with bacterial product ligands. The inventors have worked for at least three years to refine this tiny item; now they want to take it to market.

For most small companies and inventors, the product never makes it to market, because the inventors haven't anticipated the financial and regulatory requirements of downstream funders, users, and consumers, according to Clifford Goodman, senior scientist for medical technology at the Lewin Group, a health-care consultancy firm. "The beauty of a technology is not enough today," adds Goodman, who addressed participants in a National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer program conference in Washington, D.C.,...

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