Dr. Kenneth Reed, selected as the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rochester Section of the American Chemical Society

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

By American Chemical Society


Dr. Kenneth J. Reed, co-founder and CTO of ZeroValent NanoMetals, has been selected as the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rochester Section of the American Chemical Society.  The other nominated finalists included Dr. Michel F. Molaire (Molecular Glasses, Inc.), Dr. Cathy A. Fleischer (Big Sky Technologies, LLC), and Dr. Surya Moganty (NOHMs Technologies, Inc.).   The award, in recognition of Dr. Reed’s development of innovative new chemistry and its commercialization at several local companies, will be presented at the Section’s Annual Recognition Dinner at the Brook House on October 11.  This award, and the impressive technical and business achievements of the nominees, highlight the continuing central role of chemistry in the economic development of the Rochester area.

After a very successful 30-year career in the Kodak Research Laboratories, Dr. Reed began the next phase of his technical career - applying his chemical expertise in nanophase materials (i.e., particle sizes less than 100 nm) for new applications and new business development.  Initially working in a lab at the Rochester Institute of Technology with his team of scientists, a process for the synthesis of ceria (CeO2) with particle sizes in the 2-5 nm size range was developed.  In 2007 he co-founded his first company, Cerion Energy, to commercialize this material and its versions doped with other metal oxides, in the form of stable aqueous dispersions, as an additive for diesel fuel that both provides improved fuel efficiency as well as decreased harmful emissions from diesel engines.   Cerion was one of the first companies to exit RIT’s Venture Creations business incubator in 2007. While continuing his career as CTO at Cerion he expanded the business and technical portfolio of that initial company.  In  2011 he co-founded Cerion NRx that was focused on therapeutic treatment for central nervous system diseases and, also in 2012, Cerion Enterprises (now called Cerion Advanced Materials) , a generalized nanocatalyst company encompassing Energy, NRx and other business verticals.  Interestingly, NRx technology was based on the ability of biocompatible surface-functionalized ceria to cross an intact blood-brain barrier and control free radical damage, and  its use in drug delivery is being investigated (e.g., for potential treatment of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, MS and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS).

Cerion was one of the first start-ups to occupy the newly formed Eastman Business Park. This is a fitting situation given that Cerion employs a half dozen former Kodak scientists, engineers and business development people. Having developed the Cerion materials technology and guided its development to a commercial stage, Ken left Cerion in 2014, then with a staff of 22 and established R&D and manufacturing facilities in Eastman Business Park, to pursue his entrepreneurial interest in developing new companies based on unique materials and synthetic processes, especially in the realm of nanophase materials with tunable size-dependent properties. 

Ken’s fourth company, ZeroValent NanoMetals (ZVNM), formed in 2016, is a material science company with expertise in the development, customization and manufacture of high-performance metal nanoparticles and unique alloys in the 2-5 nm size regime. The focus for these materials is the application of their nanosize-dependent properties for the development of transformative new products for a wide range of industries including high performance thin layer (non-vacuum) coatings, flexible printed electronics, and 3D metal printing (additive manufacturing). ZVNM's proprietary chemical stabilization technology and other chemistries enable reactivity control of key earth-abundant metals: iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, titanium, tin, and their alloys which previously had been very difficult to reproducibly synthesize and stabilize in the size range of < 3 nm.   With his impressive technical and business backgrounds, Ken led ZVNM’s development of this new technology in about two years. Additionally, within this short time-frame, the platform technology was scaled to production and has been commercialized. These novel materials are now for sale as nanometal inks for printable, flexible electronics.

Ken Reed was born and raised in Rochester, NY.  After receiving his B.S. in Chemistry at RIT, he moved west to do his graduate work at Stanford University, receiving his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1976. He then returned to Rochester to begin his industrial career in the Kodak Research Laboratories.  His work at Kodak centered on materials chemistry for use in silver halide photographic products, including synthesis and characterization of dispersions of nanophase materials, an area that would be central to his future as an entrepreneur.  This work resulted in 22 patents and induction into the Kodak Inventors Hall of Fame. 

Although Ken has had a very successful career as an innovative scientist and successful entrepreneur, he is most proud of his family.  Ken married his high school sweetheart, Shirley, in 1966 and has 2 children - Wendi who is also a chemist and is employed at Cerion Advanced Materials and who has 5 patents and two technical publications with her dad; and Cheryl, a CPA and entrepreneur in her own right. Ken and Shirley also have four grandchildren. Ken gratefully acknowledges that without the strong and continuing support of his wife and children, none of his achievements would have been possible.