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Ideas at the Speed of Business


Perhaps you remember seeing some of these glow-in-the dark mice in the late 1990s when University of Hawaii researcher Ryuzo Yanagimachi received international acclaim after leading a team that developed a new gene insertion method. Yanagimachi produced fluorescent mice as proof of his team’s success in creating mice with any number of desired characteristics.

photo: courtesy of Manoa Transgenic Inc.

Well, now a group of MBA students from UH are receiving quite a bit of attention for another batch of fluorescent mice. Renata Matcheva says she and two fellow students developed a business plan to commercialize a similar, but more advanced technique for creating what researchers call transgenic mice. In fact, Matcheva, Rojjaporn Ueranant and Doris Miocinovic recently won a first prize in the annual business plan competition run by the UH Shidler College of Business.

Teaming with UH researcher Stefan Miosyadi, among other experts, the group has outlined a plan to sell transgenic mice and also the means for groups to make transgenic mice. Matcheva explains that mice are valuable because they can be created with conditions such as liver cancer or diabetes. Laboratories will then purchase them to test new treatments for humans. The gene insertion method can also be used to make larger animals for the production of therapeutic proteins for humans, and down the line, for gene therapy.

The market for transgenic mice, which will be the company’s initial focus, is upwards of $200 million and growing 10 to 15 percent a year, says Matcheva. The founders believe they can capture 10 percent of that market over the next five years. The company, which has recently changed its name from Manoa Transgenics Inc. to Manoa Biosciences, has licensed the technology from UH and now is currently looking for investors. Matcheva says the group needs $5 million to get off the ground. The business plan competition reward totaled $27,000.

Matcheva adds that none of the MBA students had scientific backgrounds. “I think it is kind of impressive that all three of have just business degrees,” she says. Indeed.



Shelling it Out

For most diners, shrimp and crab shells are a nuisance, requiring a lot of peeling and cracking to get to the good stuff. But for researchers at Hawaii Chitopure, the shells are the good stuff.

photo: istock

Inside the exoskeleton of those tasty crustaceans is a structural element called chitin, which can be refined into what researches call a bio-adhesive.

The white substance, or chitosan, comes in flakes or powder and causes fine particles to bind together. It has a wide variety of commercial and biomedical uses, from water and wine filtration to treating open wounds.

Founded in 2004, Hawaii Chitopure is building a small manufacturing plant to churn out a version of ultra-pure, medical-grade chitosan. The company is also researching new chitosan formulations for use in antibacterial and antiviral products. But the company says in the highly competitive market, additional details will be scarce until it completes construction at its Salt Lake facility later this year.

Hawaii Chitopure, which employs four people locally, is led in part by executive vice president Keiki-Pua Dancil, who hails from Maui and graduated from Kamehameha Schools before earning a Ph.D. in chemistry/biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Who knows, perhaps Dancil came upon the idea for chitosan products after finishing a spicy shrimp plate in Kahuku.



Uncommon Threads

George Atkins had taken an overnight bus into the highlands of Vietnam and as the sun came up on a small mountain village, he was left to wander until his hotel room was ready. Atkins spotted a small sign for an art gallery with an arrow pointing up a long stairway. Inside, he was taken aback by the exquisite portraits of Asian life. The depth and detail showed an intense mastery of composition and color.

photos courtesy: Haleiwa Art Gallery

Then he was stunned. Atkins saw an old woman in the corner methodically working on embroidery. These weren’t paintings. “I thought, ‘This can’t be. You can’t even see the stitches.’ I spent two days buying pieces and hearing stories about the pieces,” says Atkins, who owns the Haleiwa Art Gallery.

Up until that point, his Hawaii art gallery had only sold Island-based artists, but Atkins thought other people would be as struck by the embroidery as he was. In three months, he was back again to buy more paintings.

That was three and a half years ago and Atkins has sold more than 1,000 of the works of a Vietnamese women’s artist group called XQ.

The art form developed historically out of a need for women in Asia to express themselves artistically in a male-dominated sphere, Atkins says. So women took the task left to them, embroidery, and turned it into an almost other-worldly art form. Atkins has since traveled through Asia looking for comparable work and says he has not found anything on the same level of XQ.

And if you are traveling in the United States, don’t expect to find XQ anywhere but Atkins’ gallery on the North Shore.

He is the only one selling it and worldwide, he says, he is by far the biggest dealer in their work. Prices range from $69 to $9,500. Atkins adds that the artists are well regarded today in Vietnam, working about a 40-hour week, and have great working conditions. Atkins says, “They work in places you and I would pay to go on weekend retreats. That was very important to me.”



Hawaii Business defines often-spoken words, new and old, to help you make sense of what's being said.

SITCOMs: Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. A term used to describe families in which one spouse (typically the mother) quits her job to stay at home with the children. The comedy lies in these couples’ efforts to pay all their bills.

-Cathy S. Cruz
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Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with a flourish of food, flags and fireworks. Here are some stats on where some of our Independence Day flare comes from, compliments of the U.S. Census.

1 in 4 The chance that the hot dogs and pork sausages consumed on the Fourth of July originated in Iowa. The Hawkeye State had a total of 15.5 million market hogs and pigs on March 1.

6.8 billion pounds Total production of cattle and calves in Texas in 2006. The Lone Star State accounted for about one-sixth of the nation’s total production.

6 Number of states in which the revenue from broiler chickens was $1 billion or greater between December 2005 and November 2006. So what are the chicken states? Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi and Texas.

50% Nearly half of the nation’s spuds were produced in Idaho or Washington in 2006.

$206.3 million The value of fireworks imported from China in 2006, representing the bulk of all U.S. fireworks imported ($216 million). U.S. exports of fireworks, by comparison, came to just $22.6 million in 2006, with Japan purchasing more than any other country ($8 million).

$17.3 million The value of U.S. manufacturers’ shipments of fireworks in 2002.

$5.3 million Dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags in 2006; the vast majority of this amount ($5 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.

$349.2 million Annual dollar value of shipments of fabricated flags, banners and similar emblems by the nation’s manufacturers, according to the latest published Economic Census (2002) data.



Architect Rick Crandall’s dome homes look like something out of a science fiction movie, more apt for outer space than the tropical islands of Hawaii. But Arizona-based Crandall says the oddly shaped, futuristic buildings have found a growing market on the Mainland, particularly in areas prone to natural disasters. He hopes they’ll catch on in Hawaii for the same reasons.

photos courtesy: Crandall Design Group

“The key word is monolithic. It’s a solid, single-piece concrete building, so there’s really nothing to come apart in a natural disaster, like a hurricane or an earthquake,” explains Crandall. “In a hurricane, for example, all the impact or heavy loads that hit the exterior shell are transferred right down the curves and into the foundation.”

Crandall adds that the dome homes, which are constructed by laying concrete over an inflatable balloonlike airform, are fireproof and impervious to mold or termite rot. Plus, the unique construction method eliminates the need for scaffolding, lifts or cranes, lowering construction costs as much as 10 percent below comparable homes built using traditional methods.

Currently, Crandall has three monolith projects underway in Hawaii: one custom home in Waimea, Kauai, and two private residences on the Big Island. He’s also looking at possibly doing a townhouse project somewhere on the Kona Coast. “We’re starting to see a little bit of demand in Hawaii,” says Crandall, “mainly because of all the unique benefits, like the hurricane and earthquake protection.”

Which is great. But the ultimate test is how well they hold up against a Kilauea lava flow.


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