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Which Mass. companies are on the World Economic Forum's "Tech Pioneers" list?

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 3, 2009 10:28 AM

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Each year the World Economic Forum selects a small group of companies as "Technology Pioneers," and there are usually a few local firms in the bunch.

This year, a committee of tech experts have chosen 26 companies developing products that "will have a deep impact on business and society." Most will get an invite to the Forum's annual gathering of CEOs, world leaders, and consciousness-raising celebrities in Davos, Switzerland next month.

Of the 26 "Technology Pioneers" for 2010, 18 hail from the U.S., and six are based in Massachusetts: three of those are life sciences companies (Aura Biosciences, MicroCHIPS, and Proteon Therapeutics), two could be dubbed cleantech (Metabolix and Boston-Power), and just one is in infotech (StreamBase Systems). Two of those six Massachusetts companies are run by women, both of whom came to the Bay State from Europe (Elisabet de los Pinos of Aura is from Spain; Christina Lampe-Onnerud of Boston-Power is from Sweden.)

I caught up with MicroCHIPS chief executive and co-founder John Santini yesterday; the honor comes as his MIT spin-out marks its 10th year in business.

The Bedford company is developing an implantable medical device that can be used to sense what's going on inside your body or to deliver doses of a drug. (It's a thin microchip that contains tiny wells, which can hold either sensors or small doses of a drug.) Santini told me that the 20-person company is expecting to conduct its first clinical trials next year. One product will be an implanted glucose sensor for diabetics that lasts for a year, and reports on blood sugar levels wirelessly to a handheld device. ("We're not iPhone compatible yet," Santini jokes.) The other product will deliver parathyroid hormone to the spine to help grow new bone in patients with osteoporosis. Both devices will be implanted in an outpatient procedure, using local anesthetic, Santini explains.

The company has been funded by Boston venture capital firms, including Polaris Venture Partners and Flybridge Capital Partners, along with corporate investors, and it sounds like a new VC round is in the works.

Getting the opportunity to go to Davos and rub elbows with the likes of Bill Gates and Bono "is a once-in-a-lifetime event," says Santini, "assuming you're not a Fortune 500 CEO."

(Photo copyright by World Economic Forum / swiss-image.ch / Photo by Christof Sonderegger.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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