Aura, MicroCHIPS, Boston-Power, & Other Hot Local Startups Join the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers

Xconomy Boston — 

A handful of startups from the Boston area are joining an exclusive club today. The World Economic Forum—the Swiss nonprofit that has previously honored such companies as Cambridge, MA-based biotech Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY), PayPal, and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)—has named six local companies to its prestigious annual list of Technology Pioneers, the organization announced this morning.

The 2010 Technology Pioneers include Aura Biosciences, Boston-Power, Metabolix, MicroCHIPS, Proteon Therapeutics, and StreamBase. This is a big award for startups, not only because of the stature of previous recipients like Google, but because nominees come from all over the world and are judged by experts based on their impact on both their industries and society. That six of the 26 companies to be honored this year are from the Boston area is also a big endorsement for the innovation scene here.

Beyond the obvious recognition the Technology Pioneer designation provides to startups, perhaps its biggest perk is the ability to rub elbows with the industry and thought leaders that the World Economic Forum attracts. The organization’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is an A-list event where the leaders of startups that get selected as Technology Pioneers can mingle with the chiefs of global corporations, providing connections that can make a huge difference for early-stage firms.

I talked to the CEOs of two newly minted Technology Pioneers from the Boston area this morning. “For us, besides just having that recognition on a world stage, having access to the constituency of the World Economic Forum is an exceptional opportunity for a small company,” said John Santini, president and CEO of Bedford, MA-based MicroCHIPS. Elisabet de los Pinos, the CEO of Aura Biosciences in Cambridge, MA, said: “For us that is critical because it’s a third-party validation of our technology, which creates a lot of credibility to potential investors.”

Here’s a quick look at all the 2010 Technology Pioneers from the Boston area:

Aura Biosciences is developing nano-sized particles designed to deliver drugs to diseased cells while minimizing their impact on healthy tissues. The firm is in pre-clinical development of a treatment for pancreatic cancer and is working on particles for delivering RNA-interference drugs.

—Boston-Power, based in Westborough, MA, develops and manufactures advanced lithium-ion batteries designed to last far longer than conventional lithium-ion cells. The company has established itself in the market for laptop batteries, specifically with its supply deal announced last year with technology giant Hewlett-Packard.

Metabolix, of Cambridge, is a maker of biodegradable plastic and other products made from sustainable materials.

MicroCHIPS, a spin-off of MIT, is developing implants that can monitor diseases and intelligently release drugs at specified levels to maximize treatments. The firm’s lead product in development is a continuous glucose monitor that is designed to send wireless signals to alert diabetics of changes in their blood sugar levels.

Proteon Therapeutics, based in Waltham, MA, has been on a roll this year, raising $50 million in a Series B round of venture capital. It also secured a deal that gives Swiss drug giant Novartis an option to buy the startup if all goes well with its lead treatment for improving the outcomes of surgeries that prepare a patient’s blood vessels to be hooked up to dialysis machines.

StreamBase, headquartered in Lexington, MA, provides software that helps governments and companies quickly process and make decisions based on information from real-time data streaming.