Landsdowne Labs Awarded Competitive NSF Grant to Develop Novel Battery Coating

Business seed funding is aimed at preventing child injuries from ingested “button batteries”

FAIRFIELD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Landsdowne Labs, LLC, a spinout from the laboratories of MIT and Harvard scientists Drs. Robert Langer and Jeffrey Karp, has been awarded a $256,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further develop and design a novel battery coating to help prevent injury and reduce risk to the thousands of children who ingest batteries each year.

“Every year, thousands of children swallow ‘button batteries’ —small, high density, coinlike batteries increasingly used in consumer devices,” said Melissa Fensterstock, the Landsdowne CEO. “Too often, the swallowed batteries cause injury to children’s internal organs, and, in some cases—death.

“Our technology uses niobium, a natural element found in the earth’s crust, to deactivate batteries soon after they come in contact with aqueous environments in the esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract—thus helping prevent electrochemical burns.”

Landsdowne will use the NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to assess the feasibility and best design for using niobium to prevent oxidation of the stainless steel currently used to coat most “coin” or “button” battery covers, according to Ravikumar Vasudevan. Vasudevan is Landsdowne Labs’ Vice President for Engineering and the project director.

Niobium is a soft, ductile transition metal similar to tantalum and titanium. It is currently used as an alloying element in high strength steel and other super alloys—with existing applications in medical and surgical equipment, optics, jewelry, and hypoallergenic cosmetics, among others.

Landsdowne is currently awaiting patent approval for its technology, and is testing the technology’s efficacy, scalability, and impact on battery performance.

Worldwide, billions of button cell batteries are sold annually and, with the burgeoning “Internet of Things,” consumer use of such batteries is on the rise.

In 2019, in the United States, approximately 3,500 button battery ingestions were reported, according to the National Capital Poison Center. But, according to Kris Jatana, MD, a recognized international expert on the subject, the actual number of such ingestions may be far higher.

In a recent survey of more than 400 physicians who directly manage patients who have ingested “foreign bodies,” Jatana and his team found that nearly 90% of button battery ingestions (and 96% of all foreign body ingestions) had not been reported to data sources. “As a result of poor reporting mechanisms, we are grossly underestimating the frequency of severe injuries and life-threatening outcomes from button battery ingestions,” Jatana said.

Of reported battery button injuries, 75% occur in children under 6 years old, with toddlers the most vulnerable population.

By 2030, 125 billion consumer devices are expected to be sold globally, many powered by coin cells.

“A battery-level technology solution that can reduce or eliminate the severe esophageal injuries is absolutely necessary to reduce morbidity and mortality from these ingestions,” Dr. Jatana said. Jatana is Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Ohio State University and is an investor/shareholder in Landsdowne Labs.

In offering congratulations to Landsdowne on the NSF grant award, Robert Langer, PhD noted that “the potential for children to swallow small batteries is significant and growing. Landsdowne’s technology promises to reduce the associated risks.” Langer is David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a company cofounder.

The SBIR/STTR program, also known America’s Seed Fund, powered by NSF, awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. America’s Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $8.5 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

Landsdowne Labs, LLC, formed in 2017, is a spinout from the world-renowned Langer Lab. The company’s first product, ChildLok, is an innovative button battery technology designed to deactivate batteries following accidental ingestion, made possible by advanced material science Landsdowne Labs is commercializing this groundbreaking technology for global companies seeking a turnkey, low-cost solution to the growing button battery health crisis. Landsdowne is headquartered in Fairfield, CT.


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