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December 27, 2003

What's Dr.Bala Manian up to in India?


Despite his sterling track record as a serial entrepreneur in the US, Dr.Bala Manian, has maintained a very low profile in the media. This is in sharp contrast to Indian IT entrepreneurs in the US--several of whom we got to see on the covers of business magazines, but whose their start-ups promptly bit the dust once the bubble had burst.

Maybe, the fact that Dr.Manian's areas of interests lay outside the glamorous IT industry, helped him stay out of the media spotlight. But, not any longer. A detailed profile in the latest issue of Business Today reveals his plans for India.

Here is a quick profile of the man's career:

He has founded of a long list of biotechnology and instrumentation companies including Biometric Imaging Inc, Surromed, QDOT, Entigen, Biometric imaging, Lumisys, Molecular Dynamics, and Digital Optics Corp--several of them have proved highly successful.

Biometric Imaging Inc, where he was Founder & Chairman, was acquired by medical device firm Becton Dickinson & Co. Dr. Manian founded two companies--Lumisys and Molecular Dynamics--in 1987. Both companies went public on the Nasdaq before being acquired. Lumisys, which manufactures and markets Tele-radiology systems to the medical imaging market, was acquired by Eastman Kodak. Molecular Dynamics, which manufactures and markets analytical instrumentation systems to molecular biology and genetic engineering research, was acquired by Amersham Pharmacia Biotech.

In 1980, Dr. Manian founded optical instrumentation and systems development company Digital Optics Corp (acquired by Matrix Corp in 1984). The technology co-developed by Dr.Manian, at Digital Optics Corp., and transferred to Lucas film Ltd. in 1983, allowed filmmakers to insert special effects into movies using computerized digital imaging. Lucas Films used the technology in creating movies like "Return of the Jedi" and the Indiana Jones Trilogy.

An expert in the design of electro-optical systems, Dr. Manian holds more than 30 patents, many of which have resulted in successful commercial products. Additionally, Dr. Manian has authored more than 35 scientific publications. He has a BS in Physics from the University of Madras, an MS in Applied Optics from the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. He has been a Faculty Member at the University of Rochester's Institute of Optics for four years, teaching courses in optical fabrication and testing, optical instrumentation and holography. Dr. Manian left the institute in 1974 to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.

Dr.Manian, who is sought by top Silicon Valley VCs for advice on life science related issues, is also a Charter Member of networking and entrepreneurial mentoring forum EPPIC (Enterprising Pharmaceutical Professionals from the Indian subContinent)--which is an equivalent of the TiE network (which is dominated by IT industry professionals) in the Life Sciences space.

Dr.Manian work has so far been restricted to the US. But, he is now taking active interest in his native land. The Business Today article reveals his plans for India.

His latest start-up, ReaMatrix which is located in Bangalore, focuses on nanotechnology technology applications for the pharmaceutical/biotech industries. According to the BT article, Dr.Manian also advises Wipro's health sciences division, VC firm 2iCapital, as well as ICICI's Knowledge Park in Hyderabad.

The article also throws up some interesting personal facts about Dr.Manian, including the fact that he lost one eye in an accident involving a compass while at school, and that ICICI Chairman N.Vaghul is his younger brother.

Click Here to read the full BT article. (Paid subscription required).