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Is there anything IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) can't do? The company best known for servicing huge outsourcing contracts turned heads this weekend when The Wall Street Journal profiled Big Blue's latest research breakthrough: a smart bomb for destroying bacteria.

Developed in concert with Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Big Blue's "nanoparticle," as it's known, has already shown promise in test tube experiments and over time could become an important weapon in the fight against bacteria that are resistant to classic antibiotics.

Surprised? Don't be. With hundreds of tiny tech patents to its name, IBM has at least as much experience creating nanoscale technology as the innovators in venture capitalist Harris & Harris' (Nasdaq: TINY  ) nanotech portfolio.

Remember "Racetrack"? IBM's nanotech storage technology could increase capacity at least tenfold or perhaps as much as 100-fold by lining up data on a subatomic wire track. New tests, published in December, suggest it's possible to control the precise placement of nanoscale data using magnetics.

What thrills me as an investor is that these and other breakthroughs offer opportunities to not only disrupt competitors but also license or create highly profitable services.

We also know from experience that pharmaceutical companies are willing to pay up for medical breakthroughs. Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN  ) recently paid $1 billion for BioVex and its experimental cancer treatments. Any number of Big Pharma companies could decide to pay up for IBM's nanoparticle.

Call it just another catalyst for a cheap tech stock that already has plenty going for it. Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about the value of IBM's patent portfolio using the comments box below.

The Motley Fool recently introduced a free My Watchlist feature that allows users to stay ahead of the curve and receive up to date news on companies like IBM, or any of its competitors. To get up-to-date IBM news and analysis, add the company to your watchlist today:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Harris & Harris and IBM at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of IBM and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is a powerful weapon against investing chicanery.

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Related Tickers

10/20/2016 3:51 PM
IBM $151.70 Up +0.44 +0.29%
IBM CAPS Rating: ****
AMGN $161.89 Up +0.81 +0.50%
Amgen CAPS Rating: ****
TINY $1.35 Down +0.00 -0.33%
Harris and Harris CAPS Rating: **