Posts From July 2007

July 31, 2007

From tiny devices, mighty profits grow

Courtesy of Roy Doumani

A financier by trade, Doumani is an unlikely nanotech evangelist.

By Holly Hubbard Preston
Friday, July 20, 2007

LOS ANGELES: Nanotechnology is not where Roy Doumani made his fortune, but it could be where he leaves his most important mark.

With the zeal of a modern-day Medici, Doumani, the 71-year-old international financier and real estate investor, is focusing his energy and resources to bolster an area of innovation that may finally be on the brink of widespread commercialization.

"I see tremendous potential in nanotechnology," Doumani said from his 6,500-square-foot, or 604-square-meter, seaside home in Los Angeles, designed for him and his wife, Carol, by the sculptor Robert Graham. "And if I believe in something, I won't let it go."

Nanotechnology is the science of materials and devices of the scale of atoms and molecules. As a field of study, it has been around as long as scientists have been isolating atoms. While science fiction writers and venture capitalists have long touted its future influence over everything from warfare to cancer treatment, nanotechnology has been slow to attract capital from the public or private markets.

Investors' generally lackluster response is understandable, Doumani said. As he pointed out, most companies dealing with nanotechnology are still in the process of defining their market offerings, making it difficult for investors to gauge their potential returns.

"To coin the saying 'we don't make the products, we make them better' provides a good idea of where nanotechnology is today," Doumani said.

"There's no hurry to invest," he added. "This is not a case where the train is pulling away from the station - it hasn't pulled in."

In 2002, Doumani helped establish the California NanoSystems Institute, a research center based at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose chief purpose is to foster nano-based innovations with viable commercial applications.

Doumani, who sits on the institute's advisory and oversight board, also engineered the center's joint venture with Zheiijang University in Hangzhou, China. The resultant entity, known as the Zheijang California NanoSystems Institute, is the first Chinese-American institute specializing in the development of nanometer-related technology. He has helped negotiate nano-based patent agreements and business contracts for scientists, and has pitched government officials across the globe on funding research projects.

Doumani's efforts are not in vain: As of last month, 500 nano-based products were available in markets around the world - nearly double the number a year earlier, according to the Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Inventories monitored by the institute include everything from sunscreen and condoms to car wax and laptop computers using carbon nanotubes.

To acclaimed nano chemists like James Heath, having a savvy businessman like Doumani in nanotechnology's camp is an important development in moving the science into the mainstream.

"Often scientists and business people end up a bit at odds with each other since we come from different worlds and speak different languages," said Heath, who in addition to being a founder of the California NanoSystems Institute is a senior professor at both CalTech and at UCLA. "Roy really goes to the trouble to learn from us scientists and to teach us his thinking."

Doumani, an adjunct professor in molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, his alma mater, offers a course called the Business of Science, which teaches scientists about patents and start-up business processes. Heath says it "is probably the most popular class in the medical school."

An artist at heart, lawyer by degree and financier by trade, Doumani seems an unlikely nano-evangelist: His day job includes managing investments in both local and international real estate, including, a 5,000-home residential development in New Jersey with sales in excess of $1.5 billion. He is also involved with a handful of start-ups, primarily in high-tech industries. On top of that, he is vice chairman and shareholder in Xiamen International Bank, China's first major joint venture bank. The Chinese bank is one of half a dozen financial institutions Doumani has helped start.

While Doumani lends his support to all types of nanotechnology, it is in the area of cancer research that he seems most passionate. Diagnosed 15 years ago with prostate cancer, Doumani knows only too well the world of cancer drug treatments. He is convinced that less debilitating forms of treatment, involving nanotechnology, will be available in the near future.

Heath confirmed as much.

"There are nanotechnologies for the delivery of cancer chemotherapies that are either in late Phase 2 or early Phase 3 trials," he said, referring to research studies that evaluate new drugs and medical devices before their submission for government approval. Heath said nanotechnology can deliver drugs to their targets much more effectively than traditional methods, thus allowing doses to be reduced 10- to 20-fold, reducing the toxicity to almost zero, and yielding the same patient benefit.

Doumani, a man who used poker proceeds to help finance his schooling and who chose an artist over an architect to design his home, rates nanotechnology as one of the lower risk enterprises he has ever embarked upon.

"What used to be called science fiction," he said, "is now science fact."

Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or

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July 9, 2007

Adult summer camp in Napa's Oxbow Studios

 “You can see why people who do really great things
usually have somebody taking care of them.”

Kathleen Stewart, Healdsburg bakery owner and Oxbow printmaking student


Installation view of the final show


Adult summer camp in Napa's Oxbow studios

To View all Photos Online Click Here

It’s no secret that the staff of artists at Napa’s Oxbow School has trained hundreds of teenagers in painting, printmaking, sculpture and other fine arts. The school’s intensive, residential semester is the only studio arts program of its kind in the U.S., attracting talented students from high schools across the country.

A less well-known Oxbow program has just ended at the riverside campus, possibly for the last time. School officials are pondering whether to continue offering the Oxbow Summer Studios, a ten-day course for adult artists complete with dormitory lodging and most meals. The $2,000 program is limited to 24 participants, but this year enrolled just over half that number.

“It was heaven”Taking a relaxing break after hanging their artwork for the final show

Although some of this year’s Summer Studios attendees were sponsored by the schools where they teach art for a living, others were professional artists savoring the freedom to paint, draw and photograph for eight to 10 hours a day without having to think about work or family concerns.

“It’s pure pleasure,” said Kathleen Stewart, who has studied printmaking at Oxbow for three summer sessions. Business at her Healdsburg bakery kept Stewart from attending more than three days this year, but that didn’t dampen her enthusiasm.

“It was heaven,” Stewart said, a sentiment shared by a dozen classmates who gathered for an informal show and final Oxbow dinner June 26. Like Stewart, several had returned after at least one previous session; others followed their children into the Oxbow fold.

“I was so jealous because they were having such a fabulous experience and I wanted to do what they did,” said Suzanne Frazier of Mill Valley, whose two children attended Oxbow’s semester program. A painter herself, Frazier took advantage of Oxbow’s well-appointed printmaking studio to broaden her skills.

Christopher Hirsheimer talking about her photographs- Margo Felling next to her Collages

Design partners Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer, both former editors at Saveur magazine, also joined this summer’s session. Hamilton’s drawings explored images of her family, while Hirsheimer – a sought-after food photographer whose work has illustrated numerous cookbooks – produced a series of informal black-and-white photo portraits of her classmates and a handful of agricultural scenes.

Hirsheimer and Jerilyn Hanson, a retired executive, were the only photographers in this summer’s session, working with Oxbow photography teacher Pattiann Koury to shoot images and develop them in the darkroom. Both said they were heading home with heightened skills and a new appreciation for their own abilities.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Hanson said.

“Food Camp”
One of the "kitchen ladies" sous chef Cinde Cromwell - Oxbow Director Stephen Thomas at dinner

Along with the chance to spend unfettered hours in Oxbow’s riverside studios, the adult artists also savored the school’s celebrated cuisine – and unlike the teens who fill the campus during the regular school year, these students also enjoyed wine with their meals.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Hanson, praising not only the food and Oxbow’s chefs – “they are so dedicated to what they’re doing” – but the pleasure of gathering with fellow artists three times a day in the dining hall or on the deck overlooking the Napa River.

Oxbow chef (and Chez Panisse alum) Tracy Bates and her culinary team of “kitchen ladies” turn out seasonal dishes with a focus on sustainability. Bates sources her food locally – often as locally as the campus garden and the farmer’s market just across the river.

On the last day of Summer Studios, the artists enjoyed seared chicken breast with Romesco sauce, Spanish style chickpeas and chorizo, roasted potatoes and artichokes and grilled asparagus, with a galette of farmer’s market nectarines and raspberries.

 “I’ve always dubbed this Food Camp,” Stewart said, as the music of John Coltrane played on a studio boombox and Oxbow director Stephen Thomas poured sparkling Schramsberg for his departing students.

“You don’t have to think about the day to day necessities that you usually think about, so all of your brain waves can go into the studio,” Stewart continued.
“You can see why people who do really great things usually have somebody taking care of them.”

“A lot of growth,” but low enrollment
Though every one of this year ’s Summer Studios artists said she would like to return for another session in 2008, that may not be possible. This year’s class only topped 12 people because Thomas and his wife Patty Curtan encouraged friends and former students to sign up. If Oxbow can’t attract a larger group by next spring, it may have to end the program after three years; and that would be a loss to artists like Barbara Nelson, head of the art department at a Laguna Beach school that sponsored her attendance this year.

“It was a lot of work, and a lot of growth,” Nelson said.

For more information about the Oxbow School:

--Louisa Hufstader
Photographs taken by Ashley Nicole Teplin

Adult Students

Barbara Nelson Laguna Beach, CA Art Teacher
Brigid Corboy Half Moon Bay, CA Art Teacher
Cathy Baken Mill Valley, CA Artist
Christopher Hirsheimer Enwinna, PA Designer / Food Photographer
Jerilyn Hanson Minneapolis, MN Retired Executive
Joni Missell Mill Valley, CA Executive at Summer Search -program for disadvantaged teens-
Kathleen Stewart Healdsberg, CA Bakery Owner
Lynn Kozikowski Albuquerque, NM Art Teacher
Margo Felling Chicago, IL Retired Executive
Melissa Hamilton Stockton, NY Designer / Food Writer
Sally Baker Danville, CA Private Highschool Art Teacher
Susan Sanders Dallas, TX Painter / Mother
Suzanne Frazier Mill Valley, CA Painter

Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or

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Vineyard manager Michael Wolf perches on a pile of stones he and his men pulled from the soil to prepare Quixote's new two-acre hillside Petite Syrah vineyard.
Photo by John McJunkin

To purchase Quixote wines click here

Thirty years ago when Napa Valley underwent its first viticulture renaissance, local farmers could read land, plants and weather. City slickers arriving in the wine country to pursue their vinous dreams marveled at the mystical powers of these men and women and eagerly learned everything they were willing to teach. Then, for nearly two decades, new technology and scientific solutions incrementally eclipsed the relationship between people and vines.

Fortunately, by the time we got around to launching Quixote Winery and replanting Stags Leap Ranch Vineyard in 1991, many of us had learned that what we’d come to call “conventional farming” was failing us. We were finding our way back. Vineyard Manager Michael Wolf is the quintessence of the enlightened farming that comes out of this movement. Call it Slow Food, sustainable, organic or natural, it’s a philosophy extolled by our muse Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Michael Wolf.

Michael grew up just outside New York City. In 1971 he earned a B.A. in history at Alfred University in upstate New York then headed straight for California and has farmed one way or another from Mendocino to Napa Valley ever since. As one might expect of a guy drawn “back to the earth” in the early ‘70s, he has an aversion to templates. He doesn’t like regimented viticulture, highly stylized winemaking and, surprisingly enough, he has no interest in “unlimited budgets.”

Michael gets excited about creating purely individualized vineyards that express the land and the winemaking style of the vintner. He also likes the satisfaction of knowing the wine is a good value.

Contrary to the fashion of the day, he’s not inclined to follow Bordeaux planting models and pushes to harvest fruit while it still tastes like the vineyard and before sugar levels soar.

“What my men and I do together is difficult,” explains Michael. “Each of us has to think about every individual vineyard we farm. This is not manufacturing. Each vineyard and plant is different. The same man returns to the same vineyard block again and again throughout the year. I’m big on what is real. We like learning and being challenged and we like the respect our approach elicits from vintners.”

With no degree in viticulture, Michael learned to farm by farming. He was in the rows with farmworkers for enough years to slide back and forth between Spanish and English with ease. He came to appreciate the difference between a vineyard that looks good from the highway and one that can stand up to minute evaluation. He learned to listen to the vineyard and appreciate the life in the soil.

At Quixote’s Stags Leap Ranch, he was surprised to find 14 distinctly different blocks within 27 acres. “This vineyard produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Syrah with a generousness to them. There’s more red fruit character and an absence of massive tannins. I’ve actually wondered if the cabernet picks up softness from its proximity to the petite. It’s a unique wine with real backbone and structure. This vineyard is its own little world, geographically and geologically.”

---Pamela Hunter

Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or

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