The Economist, one of the more worthy media sources these days for connecting technology to larger society, included a page on nanomedicine in its special issue, “The World in 2013.” (page 128). The article is by Professors Omid Farokhzad and Rober Langer and focuses on bio nanotechnology from BIND Biosciences. BIND recently announced a development deal with Amgen. Professor Langer is a founder of BIND and Professor Farokhzad also works closely with BIND (according to the BIND Web page). The technology is for polymeric nanoparticles which smartly carry a payload. Cancer treatment is a leading application. Patenting is an important part of the company strategy per their press releases and web page content.
The attached link has information for an upcoming nanomedicine conference in April in Spain.
Lets hope more deals are in the works for nanomedicine as 2013 moves ahead into the market place from academic research. Venture capital is an important part of this story.
The Wall Street Journal this week featured nanopore sequencing in its year end review of important health trends (both hard copy and electronic copies). The speed and low cost were stressed, as sequencing machines become desktop in size. We have noted before how the miracle of high speed sequencing is reaching the main stream press (see September 19 and July 31, 2012 posts). This nanotechnology is one of the cornerstones for personalized medicine.
I saw this recent BBC article re spiderman and nanotechnology – enjoy. The article notes the technology of one company, nanoGriptech, which is a spin-off company from Carnegie Mellon University (see Professor Metin Sitti). More generally, the article relates to bio-inspired adhesives (see geckos, for example) and applications with robotics. NanoGriptech was funded early on by the Pennsylvania NanoMaterials Commercialization Center. I encourage readers to explore this web page for interesting updates including inputs from their new leader, Leone Hermans-Blackburn.
Congratulations to Carnegie Mellon University for breaking ground on a new energy/nanotech-related building last weekend, as they report on their university webpage:
“Under sunny skies that were later punctuated with daytime pyrotechnics, the excitement was palpable as Carnegie Mellon University broke ground for Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall — future home to the university’s work in nanotechnology, biomedical engineering and the new Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.”
Located in western Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon also addressed issues during the ground breaking events about how to handle shale gas and water:
Presenting the four top energy topics voted on by the audience were CMU’s:
- Jeanne VanBriesen, Shale gas development: what’s the story with water?
- Baruch Fischhoff, How will human behavior affect energy futures?
- Ed Rubin, Clean coal: oxymoron, or path to sustainability?
- Jay Whitacre, Can low cost batteries help us to use more renewables and build fewer transmission lines?
Good to see: high throughput, inexpensive DNA sequencing is being featured on NPR this week in a series entitled the $1,000 Genome. Many of the technologies for this revolution in sequencing, of course, relate closing to or directly are nanotechnology (e.g., nanopore, microfluidic, and/or lab-on-a-chip technologies). Personalized medicine depends on it. More generally, the interface between biology and electronics is one of the most compelling arguments for further development and commercialization of nanotechnology and, more particularly, bio nanotechnology. Another leading example is allowing partially blind or blind persons to see better with artificial retinas.
A brief check of the nanotechnology class 977 patent literature shows IBM has activity in this area. See, for example, their recent US patent publications 2012/0199483 (published August 9, 2012); 2012/0193237 (published August 2, 2012); 2011/0308949 (December 22, 2011); and 2011/0279125 (November 17, 2011).
Hopefully, angel and venture capital investment will also flow to these exciting areas. This appears to be turning out to be one of many virtually secret “killer apps” for nanotech. For example, the NPR series does not delve too much into how the sequencing is done (per the series, sequencing done in a ”black box”). Hopefully, despite the secrecy, the federal and state governments, including those who fund and run the NNI, are watching.
The September 3, 2012 issue of C&EN discusses what it calls an “onslaught of nanotech drugs coming down the pike” for FDA review. See article entitled “Mapping Nanotech Drugs’ Landscape,” pp. 46, 48.
The FDA is generating a database for nanotech drugs and currently has 158 entries according to the article. The leading application area is cancer treatment (38%). Most are developed to be administered intravenously (56%). The leading types of formulation are liposomes (39%) and nanoparticles (27%).
The FDA will hold a public workshop in the coming months to get input from stakeholders for how to improve the review process.
The US patent literature confirms the role of nanotechnology innovation in cancer treatment. Of the currently published nanotechnology class 977 patent filings (there are 13,814 of them), 1.9% of them refer to cancer in the title or abstract. Considering the breadth of nanotechnology and bio nanotechnology, this is a significant fraction. Also, 4.3% of them refer to cancer in the title, abstract, or claim. Finally, 14.3% of them mention cancer in the patent somewhere.
The popular news webpage msnbc.com is featuring an article in their health section on bio nanotechnology with headline, “Gene healing in a lotion? Researchers say they’re close.” Northwestern University research is highlighted, coming from the laboratories of Professor Chad Mirkin.
The technology, as you can read, relates to siRNA methods. This an active area of nanotechnology with potentially blockbuster results to impress the public mind (revolution, not evolution). For example, I noted that terms like siRNA, RNAi, and miRNA appear in 3.4% of the class 977 patent publications published to date (440 out of 12,982). Also, a review article including IP and interference technologies and nanobio has been posted on the web.
Nanotechnology has made it again into some mainstream press. The December 3, 2011 edition of The Economist has a 28 page Technology Quarterly which is a must-read for those that follow nanotech. Nanotechnology’s role in commercialization efforts is noted in several of the articles – good to see!
First, there is “Getting Past the Guards,” an article on the health side of nanotech regarding delivering pharmaceutical drugs past the body’s natural defenses (pages 18-19 in the paper edition). One such defense is the blood-brain barrier. Another is the small size of blood capillaries. Anticancer drugs can clump too much and cause blocking in the small capillary. Recent research is reported, however, where drug particles are converted to nanoparticles with a combination of sound waves and use of polymers to form shells. Certainly, cancer treatment is one blockbuster application of nanotech which should be stressed to government officials in charge of government funding and commercialization policy. An article is also attached on delivery of drugs across the blood-brain barrier using nanotechnology.
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Congratulations to the nano biotechnology company, NanoBio: See recent articles, below, e.g., "NanoBio Nabs $6M from Gates Foundation for Nasal Spray Vaccine". Hopefully, the nanoemulsion technology will allow one to avoid needles and promote global health.
Prominent billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Ted Turner have been in the news media recently talking about how and why they "give" money away. It will be interesting to see what else can be given to nanotechnology, nano biotechnology, and cleantech. And, what kind of creative licensing arrangements can be achieved to create "win-win" outcomes? What strategy will they use to promote health in poor countries, and will they also turn to venture capital types of strategies at all?
Has nanotech’s time come? As Warren Buffet allegedly has said, "If you wait until you see the robin, spring will already be over. Buy soon, or you will miss the opportunity." (Also, Christmas is here. :)
This week’s feature: a VC arm of big pharma, Lilly Ventures, led a new round of $24 M in financing for nanopharmaceutical company Cerulean Pharma (Cambridge, MA-based), per media reports. The round was termed a C-round, and the total raised to date is reported to be $56 M.
One of the central ideas for this technology is to limit harmful side effects through nanoscale approaches to drug delivery and efficacy. For example, if a prior drug was not put into the market because of side effects, those side effects could be reduced or eliminated by nanoscale engineering. Hence, the nano approach can help recoup past investments in developing drugs which seemingly “failed” due to side effects.
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