Monday, January 31, 2005

State rankings and quantum reality

State rankings in nanotech. I just don't know. Yeah, I know, that's how you build buzz and sell paper and all that -- by getting regions and states to brag about their rankings and buy the reports and mags that rank them. But what do they really mean?

At the very least, maybe they're wonderful real-world illustrations of the "potential realities" concept that quantum mechanics teaches us.

How can you possibly quantify the economic impact of as-yet-non-existing businesses and economic clusters on state economies? I think you can judge, at best, the amount of coordination and money spent on building what these states and communities hope someday will reap economic rewards, along with existing "facts on the ground," like Michigan = auto and Army vehicles, Massachusetts = top universities and life science companies, Colorado = feds, etc.

But, still, I think any state would be hard-pressed to point to any economic benefit yet. The labs will be built, the clusters will cluster and the companies will be launched, products will be released and then let the games begin. But I just don't think they've really crossed the starting line yet.

Related News
Nanotechnology offers promise on a smaller scale (Centre Daily Times)

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Son of Massachusetts Miracle

Nano's most fantastic image


And I thought I was the only one who was attracted to "Fantastic Voyage" for non-nano reasons ...

The Washington Post: Jan. 30, 2005:

    Think "tiny medicine," and you probably think "Fantastic Voyage," the 1966 movie (and Isaac Asimov book) about a minuscule medical crew submarining through a patient's circulatory system. In fact, some nanomedicine experts foresee a day when invisibly small robots will cruise through the body looking for signs of disease -- albeit without the added attraction of a neoprene-clad Raquel Welch.
Me, Jan. 22, 2004:
    Just slightly farther over the horizon are nanomaterials like buckyballs for targeted drug delivery. There are some FDA trials going on right now, and here’s where you get into your Fantastic Voyage meets reality stuff. You can’t put Raquel Welch into a buckyball, so maybe some targeted anti-cancer medication will have to do.
And me, Aug. 25, 2003:
    I banned "Fantastic Voyage" references from staff- and correspondent-written Small Times stories more than a year ago, since the movie reference was overused, and the technology too distant. Maybe I should rethink the policy. A development reported in New Scientist isn't exactly Raquel Welch under your skin, but these nanoparticles do detect cold sores.
NanoBot Backgrounder
Stop worrying and learn to love nanobots
Imagination at Work
Nano Meme Watch

Japan checks nanotech nanotox

Govt to check nanotech safety (Daily Yomiuri)

    The (Japanese) government has decided to evaluate the safety of materials produced using nanotechnology, a production method expected to become a core industrial technology in this century.

    Under the plan, the effect of nanotech materials on human health and the environment will be examined to establish safety standards and new legislation dealing with the new materials, government sources said.

    It is the first time for the government to examine the social influence of a new technology before it goes into practical use. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
A future filled with fullerenes?
Are nanoparticle studies 'one decade late'?
U.S. chemical workshop takes on nanotech

Cypress: An also-MRAM

According to EE Times, Cypress Semiconductor Corp. is shipping some "alpha" samples of its MRAM device -- through its Silicon Magnetic Systems subsidiary.

For all you NVEC sellers (short, long and Peter), I guess the question here is whether this Cypress product incorporates NVEC's technology or whether it comes from the work Cypress took in-house after it became impatient with NVEC's progress. In this case, though, it might be a bit more clear-cut, since Cypress promised to share its IP with NVEC.

First, a bit of background: There isn't much of a mystery surrounding Cypress CEO T.J. Rodgers. Pretty much everything about him is public – from his company (NYSE: CY) to his politics. Yes, Rodgers is the same semi CEO who has launched written and verbal attacks against everyone from a Catholic nun to Jesse Jackson. The gruff, tough boss has testified in Congress against corporate subsidies and once delivered a keynote titled "Why Silicon Valley Should Not Normalize Relations with Washington D.C." at a Cato Institute event.

And, at times for better and at times for worse, he's remained a steadfast believer and investor in MRAM-enabled memory. Even more important than a CEO of a major semiconductor getting nano religion and spreading the gospel, though, is that he's doing it for all the right reasons – it's what customers will need and demand.

First, Rodgers believes that semiconductor survivors will be the ones that offer "on-chip" solutions – everything on one chip, with fewer moving parts that can break down. Rodgers also "gets it": The future isn't only about greater speed, better memory and more sophisticated toys. It's about establishing a better human-computer interface. To do this, you need a computer that "knows" its user. To achieve that, you need better memory. It doesn't matter if it's MRAM or the St. Louis Rams. Whatever it takes to get there. (Actually, he's a Green Bay Packers fan).

Apparently, it takes a great deal of time, money and frustration. Rodgers, not a man to publicly admit defeat, has made statements indicating that MRAM is among the most-difficult of his projects of his career.

Cypress has had its own MRAM development program for years, but the public phase came in 2002, when it teamed with MRAM specialist NVE Corp. 2002 was about the time that the semiconductor market hit bottom. So, Rodgers, pragmatist and seer, looked to ride out the downturn while planning for the future. NVEC was the brain and Cypress was the brawn in this relationship, the former with the IP and the latter with the foundry in Bloomington, Minn.

Cypress invested about $6 million in NVEC in exchange for 3.4 million shares of NVE common stock, with an option to buy up to an additional two million shares. At the time, Rodgers had said the alliance would speed development of "next-generation electronic components."

Cypress and Motorola are the two main licensees for NVEC – a company that is at once seen as a memory savior and derided as overpriced and overhyped by short-sellers.

To help speed this partnership along, Cypress created Silicon Magnetic Systems Inc., led by Jeffrey K. Kaszubinski, to develop MRAM. By September 2003, Cypress decided that this MRAM partnership business just takes too long, so the company cashed in a portion of its NVEC investment. It took the money – $23.4 million – and ran it over to its own own internal MRAM program. Kaszubinski retained his seat on NVE's board and Cypress promised to honor its partnership by sharing its IP and supplying NVEC with its MRAM wafers (if and when they move beyond paper and into three dimensions).

A source told me over the weekend to expect a press release from Cypress today. Stay tuned.

Update: NVE Technology Agreement With Cypress Results in MRAM Samples (press release) I'm attempting to get independent confirmation, though.

Update again: First, a correction. My source had told me to expect a press release, but did not say it would be from Cypress. Separately, a Cypress spokesman writes to confirm that this quote is accurate: "We see MRAM as the answer to a critical need in semiconductor memory applications-a single-chip, fast write, low power, fail safe, high-reliability nonvolatile memory," commented Jeffrey K. Kaszubinski, president and CEO of Cypress' Silicon Magnetic Systems subsidiary company. "The technology developed by NVE Founder Dr. James Daughton and others at NVE was important to us in reaching this milestone."

However, does "important to us" mean that NVEC's intellectual property is a component of the "alpha" samples being shipped by Cypress? Still not clear.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Spin there, done that
Will NVE get your Moto working?
Storage space

mmmm ... nano daaaanish ...

Danish researchers design the first virtual nano-catalyst in the world
Research offers new opportunities in the fields of renewable energy, pollution control and in the chemical industry
(Innovations Report)

    On January 28th 2005 Science features a paper by researchers from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Haldor Topsøe A/S. The paper demonstrates that by applying the quantum theory you can calculate the performance of catalysts to be used in everything from cars to the future production of hydrogen.

    So far the development of new catalysts have been based on very expensive experiments where you test a myriad of different substances. The research now published in Science forms a whole new scientific basis for the understanding of catalytic processes, and consequently for the development of new technology.

    ”This research is a perfect example of how in the field of nano-technology the gap between basic research and industrial production is very short indeed.” says the Chairman of Nano•DTU, professor Jens Nørskov. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Headwaters Inc. makes nano waves
From Wilkes-Barre to Wolfe
Will Brit buses burn cleaner under the Cerulean sky?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Socially relevant science

Science must step up fight against poverty
New approach needed in Africa (Cape Times)

    ... And scientists have been able to resist pressure to make their work relevant to social needs, using the argument (inherited from colonialist predecessors) that academic excellence is the only criterion that really counts.

    All too often, those from the developed world who seek to boost science in the poorer parts of the world, are tempted do so in ways that encourage such forms of thinking.

    The idea they present is that since science and technology are seen as the driving motors of both social and economic progress, both should be nurtured in the way that they are - or rather, have traditionally been - in those countries that have trodden this path successfully in the past.

    But this approach pays insufficient attention to several factors that make African states today different from those of, say, Europe, or even East Asia, in the 20th century.

    One is the way that globalisation has transformed the whole international research enterprise.

    A second is the evolution that has taken place within science itself, so that the boundaries between pure and applied research in fields such as genomics or nanotechnology are now virtually non-existent.

    And a third is the fact that since the spending power of those most in need of the fruits of modern science and technology is virtually negligible, market forces cannot be relied upon to exert the "pull through" from the laboratory that they have done elsewhere.

    None of these factors are unfamiliar to those who have been looking recently at the way forward for Africa. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Conquer the Divide
Sen. Clinton on nano-inequities and nano-economics
You say you got a real solution …

Nano U

Youngsters explore future in nanotechnology (Mercury News)

    The nano world that Annie Cheung inhabited for a few hours Saturday morning was so small it was measured in the billionth fraction of an atomic particle.

    But as the Milpitas High School senior learned from Silicon Valley high-tech experts and leaders, nanotechnology -- the relatively new world of everything super small -- is a vast, uncharted territory for young students exploring a career in engineering and the sciences.

    Cheung was one of 24 high school and college students who gathered Saturday morning at the San Jose offices of Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) for a reunion of graduates of "High Tech U," a camp started by semiconductor companies to encourage students from underserved communities to pursue careers in science and technology. More here (registration required)

NanoBot Backgrounder
Not your father's 'shop' class
Overachieving undergrads
Learning a living with Luna

Musical proof of entropy

Geek Rap (

    geekFremont, Cal. chemical engineer Rajeev Bajaj screams, "Shout out peeps! Shout... it... out.. NOW:"

      Entropy is chaos
      Enthalpy is Heat
      Free energy comes at a price
      When it goes negative
      Things change in a hurry

    His self-produced rap album Geek Rhythms carries the warning "Caution: Extreme Technical Content". His goal is to attract high school kids to the coolness of high-tech careers. More here

Friday, January 28, 2005

Straight into my nano heart

Why Arrowhead May Outshoot The Nanotechs (Business Week)

    Nanotechnology, which involves the design of materials or devices at the molecular level, hasn't produced many big winners. One stellar performer, however, has been tiny Arrowhead Research (ARWR ), which topped other stocks in the Merrill Lynch (MER ) nanotech index. It zoomed from 1.95 in January, 2004, to 4.32 on Dec. 31. The volatile stock -- not for the faint of heart -- is now at 3.96. The index, made up of 27 nanotech stocks traded in the U.S., has been flat since its Apr. 1 launch.

    Arrowhead signed a pact in early 2004 with California Institute of Technology to fund Caltech's nanotech research in exchange for the rights to market future products. Karsten Siebert of Midas Research rates Arrowhead, which has yet to make a dime, a "speculative buy." The company could be the "wild card" among the nanotechs because of its close ties with Caltech, Siebert says. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Will NVE get your Moto working?
Garbage picking

Day of the Dendrimer

Dow deal sends Starpharma into orbit (By Rebecca Urban, The Age)

    Starpharma shares soared yesterday after the nanotechnology group confirmed that it had signed a strategic and potentially lucrative deal with The Dow Chemical Company.

    Under the three-way deal, Starpharma's US-based subsidiary, Dendritic NanoTechnologies (DNT), will acquire Dow's extensive portfolio of patents covering dendrimer technology. It also gains the rights to revenue from Dow's already established licensing activities.

    Starpharma shares were suspended from trading for the past week and opened yesterday at a significant premium of $1, before settling back to close at 87¢.

    As The Age reported last week, Starpharma chief executive John Raff was planning to travel to the US this week to finalise the deal.

    With the deal, Dow will take a significant stake in DNT, believed to be about 31 per cent, while Starpharma will invest a further $1 million in the company to ensure it remains the largest shareholder.

    Other DNT shareholders include Central Michigan University and Donald Tomalia, the scientist who discovered dendrimers - a unique class of polymers - in the late 1970s when he worked for Dow. More here

Related News
Starpharma ADRs Added to Nanosphere List of Leading Nanotechnology Stocks for 2005 (

NanoBot Backgrounder
The Tao of Dow, revisited

NanoLife vs. NanoDeath

"Nanoenergetics." It's a word that might sound like a new body-enhancement product, but it's really all about the opposite: ripping bodies apart. It's a military euphemism for use of nanosized aluminum to transform a bang into a bang times 10. It's been making the news rounds recently, beginning with this story in Technology Review and it's been blogged by my friend Noah Shachtman at Defense Tech.

The Army-funded Center for NanoEnergetics Research at the University of Minnesota is the lead U.S. institution studying this dangerous branch of nano.

The recent media focus on this subject had me thumbing through an old notebook for an interview I conducted with a nanotech business leader who told me that his company will not go down that road. "The actual building of things used to explode or kill people, this is where we happen to have drawn the line."

He had requested that his comments not be "on the record," which explains why I've let it sit in my notebook for so long without doing anything with it. So, this week I went directly to the top of this same company, Zyvex founder James Von Ehr, and asked if he would expand on his company's policy when it comes to death by nano. Here's what he wrote:

    It's certainly our intent to develop technology for positive ends. One gets into gray areas with things that have dual uses (making our fighter jets better serves defensive and offensive purposes), but I want nano to be known as a good thing, so want to be thoughtful about the things we work on. We're pretty interested in developing better armor for our troops, so they don't get blown apart by the bad guys. We're not very interested in making better projectiles that could penetrate such armor. When the public starts to hear about nano, I want it to be a positive story about nano doing something good, not a nano weapon story. That said, if the bad guys continue to romp about and kill our guys, and our government asks us to help, we probably would do so.

    The nanoenergetics story has an upside as well - better rocket fuel that makes rockets go faster. Great if you're NASA or launching a satellite. Not so great if you're on the wrong end of the rocket. Nano-explosives 10x more powerful would be good for industrial apps, but are a bad idea when used by crazed human bombs. I'm happier to work on things like better armor, and the greatly improved prosthetics we're conceptualizing now.

NanoBot Backgrounder
The nanothin green line
Shape-shifting wings closer to flight?
Military Nano Complex

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Nano-Rank Rag

If Hawaii has no nano, how do you explain the gecko?
But better a nano-lizard in the Kona than a nano-laggard in Arizona.

Way down in twenty-nine falls the apple of our buckeye;
But don't mess with this state and Smalley's loaded bucky

And the Colorado Rocky Nano High has seen it rainin' subsidy in the sky

California picks at sloppy seconds -- the gold is gone, that's what that means;
While Boston's not sure first is worth its weight in beans

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

U.S. chemical workshop takes on nanotech

Joint EFCOG/DOE Chemical Management 2005 Workshop (U.S. Department of Energy)

    The Chemical Safety Topical Committee (CSTC) is holding its seventh annual Joint Energy Facility Contractors Group (EFCOG)/DOE Chemical Management Workshop at the DOE Forrestal Headquarters Auditorium in Washington, D.C. March 8-10, 2005. This year's workshop will include nanotechnology as a special interest.

    This year's Workshop theme is "Perspectives in Chemical Hazard Identification".

    This Workshop will provide a forum for the open discussion of critical chemical management and chemical hazard control issues faced by line managers, facility engineers and safety and health professionals attending. It will enable participants to gain a better understanding of chemical hazards identification and control.

    A "Call for Papers" has been issued for speakers to present a variety of methodologies and tools used in managing chemical hazards at the activity level. Program accomplishments, best practices, lessons learned and the challenges of preventing chemical incidents and controlling exposures to chemical hazards will be addressed during the three days of presentations and discussions. Training will include sessions on managing chemical threats and vulnerabilities and nanotechnology. More here

Related News
Nanoparticle toxicity under the microscope (

NanoBot Backgrounder
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Pinhead Angels
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The Tao of Dow, revisited

The karmic wheel is really shaped like a many-tendriled dendrimer. Dow Chemical at last understands what Donald Tomalia tried to tell the company 26 years ago -- dendrimers can fight disease. From Dow to Dendritic NanoTechnologies to Starpharma and back to Dow. Could there have been a shorter path?

NanoBot Backgrounder
The Tao of Dow
The Tale of Tomalia
Dendrimers could have cancer in their clutches
Dendrimer patch could stick it to the syringe
Living on nano time

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Nantero sings a happy tune

nantero is reporting a new deal between Brewer Science and Nantero to commercialize carbon nanotubes for nonvolatile memory in one more partnership in the traditional CMOS supply chain. It's part of Nantero's effort to remain all respectable and integrate with existing processes and products. You wouldn't want to frighten the semiconductor industry with news of its impending obsolescence. Dogs would lie down with cats and there would be panic in the streets.

As I wrote in a report for NanoMarkets last year, Nantero "has gone out of its way to make it clear that (it's) not some “crazy” nano company out to change everything by creating a manufacturing process that nobody else could reproduce. (CEO Greg) Schmergel’s marching orders to his people were that they were not to buy any 'weird equipment.'" The strategy works, of course, since Nantero has attracted some big venture capital bucks.

What's all the fuss about with Nantero? What the Boston-area company has laid claim to is its own first letter to add to RAM, and for some reason the letter N hadn't already been taken. So, NRAM it was, and here's how the nanotubes turn into memories: Suspend billions of nanotubes over a substrate that also contains tubes, then sound the call to prayer by flipping an electrical switch. The tubes on top bend in supplication toward the tubes on the bottom. And when they touch, they stay touched, even when the juice is turned off. Thank Mr. Van der Waals and his forces for that.

Why is this method of memory considered so great? It's because the tubes are, well, "nano," you can pack billions of them together, a kind of single-layer carpet of nanotubes upon nanotubes, and can be switched on and off in less than a nanosecond. And with Nantero's method, you don't have to worry about making all those billions of nanosoldiers line up correctly or even be the same size. The tubes are just scattered randomly, and regular semiconductor lithographic equipment will cut away the tubes that are not in the right place. Plus, we all know that nanotubes are strong and conduct better than Arthur Fiedler on the Fourth of July.

And according to Nantero, its process could theoretically conduct a memorable 10-gigabite symphony, a prototype of which has already been played. One potential problem, though, is that not all nanotubes were created equal. Some have different kinds of electrical properties that a random process just can't weave out – so there can be a few sour notes.

And still unanswered is how this data is read without eroding or destroying the information. The only explanation that's been given is that they're nanotubes, therefore incredibly strong and can't crack. That's never been truly put to the test, but I suppose it's safer to try it in computer memory than in a nanotube space elevator.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Revolutions happen to the unprepared
Memories, like the CMOS of my mind
Spintronics pioneer teaches online class


My subscribers through Bloglet probably already know that the service stinks and sends the "daily" e-mails out only when it feels like it, so I'm looking into other services. Suggestions for a better e-mail subscription service are welcome.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Will NVE get your Moto working?

All Dip and No Chip (The Motley Fool)

    So what of Freescale, spun off from Motorola (NYSE: MOT) last year? We take NVE's reluctance to renew a prior agreement with Motorola as a positive sign.

    As yet, however, there has been no public announcement of any deal in the offing. Freescale has delivered a working model of an MRAM chip to various preferred clients for trials and were expecting to announce full commercial launch by the end of 2004. That did not happen, so we are still in the dark as to whether Freescale's model infringes any NVE patents or not.

    As we reported back in August 2004, when the stock was trading around $35, until we see some public validation of NVEC's technology, there is little propping up this stock even at these much lower levels. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Spin there, done that
Spintronics pioneer teaches online class
Hello Nano Moto!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Spintronics pioneer teaches online class

ParkinDo you want to learn more about spintronics Magnetic Random-Access Memory (MRAM)? Why not learn from the best? Stuart Parkin of IBM is teaching an online course that's available anytime, in your pajamas or whatever else you wear around the house.

Parkin is a pioneer in MRAM, with 32 patents to his credit. It’s largely through Parkin’s work that spintronics has received the buzz that it has. Parkin is in charge of the IBM/Stanford University Spintronic Science and Applications Center, which is trying to bridge the gap between the bulky semiconductor world and the quantum world of spintronics.

MRAM stores data in the spins of individual electrons. They do this inside "tiny magnetic sandwiches" that sit appetizingly at the intersection of two perpendicular electrodes that run above and below it. Use these electrodes to zap the magnets from above and below, and the electrons inside will dervishly spin to your command.

Hit them with parallel currents, and the electrons will do an Esther Williams number, spinning in unison in the same direction, and in the process writing a "1" in binary code. But, then, break out the topspin you've been practicing in the basement ping-pong table and you'll get the top layer of electrons to move in the opposite direction from the bottom. You've just written a "zero."

Just think of the possibilities of MRAM/spintronic-based disk drives in laptops, alone, where there's more wear and tear just through lots of little, scattered writes and frequent power-ups and power-downs. Embed an MRAM chip in there, and there will be fewer visits to your laptop's hard drive. Fewer disk writes, fewer spinups and spindown cycles, and your laptop will no longer conk out after a couple of years. The flight attendant tells you to turn off all portable electronics … now, and in a panic you power down without saving. No worries. Power it back up at 10,000 feet, and you pick up where you left off.

Who should take the class? According to the outline, scientists and engineers involved in semiconductor memories or are involved in any other aspect of chip fabrication or integrated circuits with embedded MRAM, or graduate students interested in learning about magnetic devices.

But, of course, it's not knowledge for knowledge's sake. There's a profit motive. According to NanoMarkets, the MRAM market will grow to $16.1 billion by 2012. (Full disclosure: I was the lead author last year on a NanoMarkets report that looked at nanotech-enabled memory and storage. I was not involved in this latest report, though, and have nothing to do with the online class).

NanoBot Backgrounder
Spin there, done that
Swatting Millipedes
Nano Virtuoso

Saturday, January 22, 2005

France looking attractive to British nanotech talent

Madame Chic is seducing for France (The Times)

    FrenchSHE is intelligent, good-looking and bilingual — just what is needed, say politicians in Paris, to charm British and American businessmen. Meet Clara Gaymard, “ambassador for international investment” and figurehead of a campaign to lure foreign capital to France.

    There could scarcely be a more compelling example of French savoir-faire: apart from trotting the globe to drum up investment, Gaymard, 44, is a mother of eight children aged from 7 to 17, and also enjoys Rollerblading. She is married to Hervé Gaymard, minister of finance. In selling France’s advantages to the business world they make a formidable team.

    On Wednesday they will be joining leaders such as Tony Blair at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Swiss ski resort, where the French will host a cocktail party for 60 foreign chief executive officers.

    “We want to explain to them the reforms that have been carried out in France,” said Clara Gaymard last week. “Over the past two years France has changed dramatically.”

    “English people are voting with their feet,” said Gaymard. “We have a great increase of English people coming to live in France.”

    She may be right, even if Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the prime minister, seems to regard them as less significant to the French economy than French émigrés are to the British gross national product. In talks with Blair in London last year Raffarin was quoted as telling his British counterpart half-jokingly: “You send us your old people but we send you our young.”

    Gaymard does not see it quite like that. The exodus of young French people, particularly to the City of London, is more than matched, she says, by the skilled young British people coming to France in search of work in nanotechnology. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Parlez-vous nano?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Dendrimers could have cancer in their clutches

A dendrimer docks on cellular folate receptors, which are over-expressed on the surface of cancer cells.
Image courtesy of the Michigan Center for Biologic Nanotechnology

My old Detroit News colleague, science writer Karl Leif Bates, is doing PR for the University of Michigan now, and he sends me this piece of breaking news from the Michigan Center for Biologic Nanotechnology and its star secretary of nanostate, James Baker.

I love this item because it involves my two favorite molecules -- nature's own DNA, and the manmade, tendriled dendrimer. Plus, while a quarter of my brain is dreaming of molecular assemblers, another quarter is wowed by the shorter-term prospects for nano in diagnosing and treating diseases. The other two-quarters is none of your business.

Here's an excerpt from the release

DNA molecules used to assemble nanoparticles

    University of Michigan researchers have developed a faster, more efficient way to produce a wide variety of nanoparticle drug delivery systems, using DNA molecules to bind the particles together. Nanometer-scaled dendrimers can be assembled in many configurations by using attached lengths of single-stranded DNA molecules, which naturally bind to other DNA strands in a highly specific fashion.

    "With this approach, you can target a wide variety of molecules---drugs, contrast agents -- to almost any cell," said Dr. James R. Baker Jr., the Ruth Dow Doan Professor of Nanotechnology and director of the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology at U-M. Nanoparticle complexes can be specifically targeted to cancer cells and are small enough to enter a diseased cell, either killing it from within or sending out a signal to identify it. But making the particles is notoriously difficult and time-consuming.

    The nanoparticle system used by Baker's lab is based on dendrimers, star-like synthetic polymers that can carry a vast array of molecules on the ends of their arms. It is possible to build a single dendrimer carrying many different kinds of molecules such as contrast agents and drugs, but the synthesis process is long and difficult, requiring months for each new molecule added to the dendrimer in sequential steps. And the yield of useful particles drops with each successive step of synthesis.

    For a paper published Jan. 21 in the journal Chemistry and Biology, U-M Biomedical Engineering graduate student Youngseon Choi built nanoparticle clusters of two different functional dendrimers, one designed for imaging and the other for targeting cancer cells. Each of the dendrimers also carried a single-stranded, non-coding DNA synthesized by Choi.

NanoBot Backgrounder
The Tale of Tomalia
Dendrimer patch could stick it to the syringe
Central Michigan is dendrimers' delight
Living on nano time


"Getting the government to change the way they kill people is difficult."

Douglas Carpenter, chief scientific officer at nanometals company Quantumsphere
Quoted in Technology Review, on the U.S. government's foot-dragging in field testing nanoaluminum bullets

NanoBot Backgrounder
Let's nano do it
The nanothin green line
Operation Nanotube

Maryland's nano dream deferred

UM's Kirwan doesn't get $24M wish for nanotechnology R&D (Baltimore Business Journal)

    The University System of Maryland's top administrator has been rebuffed in his initial efforts to secure $24 million from state lawmakers for nanotechnology research.

    Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan confirmed this week that the Ehrlich administration, citing continued budgetary woes, is not including his request for $8 million in the state's fiscal 2006 budget to build new research facilities and recruit star scientists working in nanotechnology.

    ... Kirwan's plan, which he began circulating in Annapolis in the fall, called for three $8 million allocations to create the Maryland Integrated Nano-Biotechnology Initiative. Kirwan has pitched the initiative as a multi-campus collaboration designed to make the state a leading geographic hub of the science, which has the potential to transform the computing, communications and bioscience industries.

    Kirwan said he is "undaunted" by the setback and is working with state economic development officials to find an alternative way to "jumpstart this effort." More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nanotech a ramblin' wreck at Georgia Tech
Udub's D.C. dollar dealer

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Space Buckyballs

I think I wanna have yo baybe... (WillowPost)

    ... Type III Earthlings may one day save our civilization from armageddon by opening worm holes to other dimmensions or galaxies.

    Now, this sounds interesting to me and so I was reading along. There are a number of suggestions listed on this site. By far, though, my favorite was the idea of encapsulating some little spermies in nano-bots and sending them through the worm hole to seed another universe. That's just plain, WOW. Somebody hasn't gotten laid in a while... More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Parallel Nanoverse
... and I feel fine
Apocalypse Nano

Spin there, done that

According to this document (PDF, 84 KB) on NVE Corp.'s Web site, Motorola is going to do its best not to use NVE's MRAM IP. (How's that for alphabet soup? Short explanation: Nanotech-enabled memory for your portable devices.)

But, those who read my NanoMarkets report on nanostorage last year already knew this would happen.

Here's what's on NVE's Web site:


    Motorola recently indicated to us that it may attempt to have MRAMs manufactured by Freescale for Motorola under the so-called "have made" rights in our agreement with Motorola. We believe Motorola will likely have terminated this agreement and so relinquish its have-made rights at the end of 2005, as a result of having transferred its MRAM manufacturing capability to Freescale. We hope to, before then, negotiate a new agreement with Freescale, or an assignment of the Motorola agreement to Freescale, though only with amendments thereto, but there can be no assurances.

And here's an excerpt from my NanoMarkets report, with permission from my friend and mentor, NanoMarkets chief Lawrence Gasman.
    Best-case scenario: Motorola and Cypress use NVEC’s IP and a lot of stockholders are happy, and Daughton, along with NVEC CEO Dan Baker become the Gates and Ballmer of the nanoworld. Or, more likely, NVEC’s IP will be embedded slightly or not at all into either one of the companies’ final products and there will either be some long-lasting lawsuits or some quiet payments made. This has happened in the past between NVEC and Motorola and could happen again. NVEC will continue to survive off of its IP, and continue to gather military and other government contracts, like the total $1.24 million in DARPA grants it has received since 2002. Take away the shaky link with Motorola and Cypress, and that’s what NVEC is⎯another nanotech start-up that lives from grant to grant. More here
NanoBot Backgrounder
Didn't mean to dis The Boss
Storage space
'Terabyte territory'

Explore Sandia's IP mountain

Online Database (CCNews)

    A new online database created to highlight opportunities to license Sandia National Laboratories' intellectual property is now available to the general public.

    The purpose of Sandia's Intellectual Property Available for Licensing (iPAL) database is to show Sandia technologies that may not be fully utilized in the commercial marketplace and to help companies move promising technologies toward commercialization.

    The web-based system allows customers to search through Sandia intellectual property that is available for licensing and get in touch with the appropriate people at Sandia to negotiate a license. Sandia works with interested companies to execute a mutually beneficial commercial licensing agreement. More here

Related News
UNM, Los Alamos lab working on technology transfer

NanoBot Backgrounder
See Spot's IP

The iPod Victrola

Of Things Great and Small (The Wall Street Journal -- subscribers only)

    ipodThere was a time when big was impressive and small was cute; the 20th century was the age of the skyscraper, the Titanic and finally the jumbo jet. These days, small competes for our admiration with the grandiose. Nanotechnology -- the ability to manipulate the properties of objects as small as atoms -- seems poised to become the driving force of technological change in the decades ahead. It may be that the iPod Shuffle pictured here will be chuckled at by the generations to come because of its unwieldy size and inadequate capacity in the same way that today's teenagers chuckle at their parents' LP collections. More here
NanoBot Backgrounder
Revolutions happen to the unprepared

News at a Clancy

Just What We Need (NanoPundit)

    gameTom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Lockdown is complete with a nanotech virus. This is from the guy who wrote about the use of airliners as weapons of terror, collimated light used to blind pilots and bring down military planes and Arab terrorist smuggled across the Mexican border. Well he also wrote about a war in Europe between NATO and the Warsaw Pact (remember them?) and a competent CIA. More here
NanoBot Backgrounder
Crossing the blood-game barrier
Nano on the 'Perimeter'
NanoRobots shake (do not stir) the world

A nano IPO and excuse to run a supermodel pic

Nano float to raise $9m (WA Business News)

    MeganADVANCED Nanotechnology, arguably the biggest commercial spin-out from a Western Australian university, has launched a $9 million initial public offering. The IPO values the eight-year old company at $33 million.

    The company has already spent $18 million developing its technology, using money raised from South Korean company Samsung Corning, private investors and government START grants.

    It currently has four products in the market, in the areas of sun-screens, cosmetics, industrial coatings, and fuel catalysts.

    Its best-known product is the transparent sunscreen ZinClear, which is also used in a range of products launched by supermodel Megan Gale. More here

Related News
Big budgets emerging for tiny products (, Nov. 30, 2004)
Nano sunblock safety under scrutiny (ABC Online, July 30, 2004)

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nerd American Idol
Show your face, Procter & Gamble
Nano Product Radio


Fuchs"Technology is like religion. It can be of enormous good to society, or it can be misused."

W. Kent Fuchs, dean of Cornell University’s college of engineering who once moonlighted as a minister
Quoted in Technology Review

NanoBot Backgrounder
Zeno, nano and quantum cwaziness
The fundamental (not fundamentalist) 'why'
Barking at scientific dogma


UK firms form nanotech group (

    A new industry group called MUST (Micro & Nano UK SMEs Together) has been launched.

    MUST was formed earlier this month at the Institute for Electrical Engineering’s ‘MNT for SME’ (Micro and Nanotechnology Technology for Small and Medium Enterprises) event at Oxford University’s Begbroke Science Park. The group was formed to represent the views, interests and issues facing firms involved in exploiting MNT.

    UK SME’s do not have a strong enough representation or voice in comparison to academia or large companies regarding conveying the issues facing them. More here

Related News
Small Businesses Need Dedicated Trade Associations (Small Business Trends)

NanoBot Backgrounder
GMO is so '90s; Make way for AMO
Britain offers cash prizes for bright ideas

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Son of Massachusetts Miracle

I'm in the Boston area today, taking care of some family business. I took a ride on the old Route 128 on the way out of the airport, and thought of how well the region is doing in remaking itself one more time. I left the state after the first Massachusetts Miracle was already history (I'm talking tech, not Red Sox and Patriots). This story in today's Boston Herald says the state is doing well in the new small world, but is worried about competition.

The story also mentions "clusters," which reminded me that while communities across the country are looking to attract nanotech research parks and other similar clusters of business, venture capital and academic labs, not everybody agrees that technology clusters really produce economic miracles, as this working paper from the AEI-Brookings Joint Center indicates.

Here are excerpts from today's Herald story:

Mass. tops in nano, but execs worry (Boston Herald)

    Massachusetts ranks as the biggest state in the nation for nanotechnology activity, according to a survey that looks at the cutting-edge sector some say is the next frontier for scientific breakthroughs.

    A group of local industry experts are pushing to build a multimillion-dollar fabrication center they argue is critical if Massachusetts is to keep its lead in the emerging field.

    Lux Research Inc. rates the Bay State as No. 1 in terms of the per capita number of nanotech companies, patents, research activity, commercial applications and other factors.

    The survey, previewed last week at a Massachusetts Software Council conference, puts California at No. 2 and Colorado at No. 3.

    Even if per capita calculations are excluded, Massachusetts still leads the nanotech race in the United States, said Matthew Nordan, a Lux researcher who presented the preliminary findings.

    ... But the local industry officials, nervous about Massachusetts losing its lead, are in the early stages of pushing the fabrication center, where prototype nanotech products can be built and tested before commercial manufacturing. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
UMass to build nanotech training ground
Mass. nano marriage
Nanolian Cluster Bucks
Central Michigan is dendrimers' delight

How not to water your lily

Lotus repellant (

    lotusOhio State University engineers are designing super-slick, water-repellent surfaces that mimic the texture of lotus leaves. The patent-pending technology could lead to self-cleaning glass, and could also reduce friction between the tiny moving parts inside microdevices.

    Scientists have long known that the lotus, or water lily, makes a good model for a water-repellent surface, explained Bharat Bhushan, Ohio Eminent Scholar and the Howard D. Winbigler Professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State. The leaf is waxy and covered with tiny bumps, so water rolls off.

    In studying the lotus leaf, Bhushan realised that the same texture could be exploited to reduce friction between moving parts on machines. Small machines, such as those under development in the fields of micro and nanotechnology, cannot be lubricated by normal means, and would especially benefit from the technology. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nanotechnologists talk to the 'plantimals'
For natural nano, gaze at a gecko

Dirty little models

Nanotechnology Used to Study Environment (The Daily Californian)

    Nanotechnology, normally used for work with the crystal structures of silicone chips and pure oxides, is being used for something a little more dirty at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, like learning how to clean up environmental contaminants like nuclear waste.

    Researchers Glenn Waychunas and Carl Steefel are using techniques that allow them to study the environment at the nanoscale as part of the new Center for Environmental Kinetics Analysis (CEKA) program, based at Pennsylvania State University.

    The goal of the program is to gain insight into the kinetics, or rates, of reactions that occur at the earth’s surface using a nanoscale approach that better models what happens in the real world as opposed to in the lab. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
The walls are watching
NanoBot Soup
... and I feel fine

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The longest micron

My friend David Pescovitz, BoingBoing blogger, nanotech writer and ever-faithful NanoBot adviser, calls my attention to a quote in this piece at "The device that causes an airbag to inflate in a crash is a nanotech device," said David Kirkpatrick, senior editor at Fortune Magazine.

David ends his note to me with a simple, "Well ..."

I'll finish his sentence. "Well ... now you know why fortunes can be easily lost in the nanotech space. You first must understand how small "nano" is. The gadget that makes an airbag inflate in an instant is a MEMS (microelectromechanical system) device. Innovative and life-saving? Of course. Small? You betcha, but not small enough. Microns seem miles long when compared to the nanometer.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Smalley, Drexler and the Spirit of '96

I wrote last week about the documentary "Rage Against the Machines" on the SciFi channel, which featured a strange clip in which nanotech pioneer Rick Smalley appeared to describe self-replicating nanobots. I guessed that the comment was taken out of context, since Smalley believes such a "cool dream" is about as likely to come true as, well, as many of my cool dreams ... but, ahem, I digress. Smalley, through a spokesperson, replied with a "no comment" when I asked for his side of the story. But, in this letter, Michael Forbes steps forward with some insight and context. Thanks, Michael:

Greetings Howard,

The footage that was aired on the SciFi channel came from a documentary that Nanotechnology Magazine produced for the Learning Channel back in 1996. We actually filmed that at Rice University as an interview format between Bill Spence, publisher of Nanotechnology Magazine and Rick Smalley.

The original program had a tour of what was then called the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) at Rice, the first university facility of its kind in the US. I was invited to the groundbreaking ceremony, which had Rick and some grad students splitting a carbon nanotube which triggered an explosion in the soil outside the auditorium. Dr. Smalley's version of a modern shovel.

I'll have to dig the original out of storage to determine just how far out of context the footage SciFi used was. The producers called me in early Dec. for permission to use the footage. They did not want to take the time or spend the money to do original current work and views, which I pushed them to do. I also assisted the Foresight Institute in having Rick speak at this conference, which I attended.

The debate between Rick and Eric Drexler began at that conference with Drexler challenging from the audience a statement made by Rick during his lecture. Smalley's response to Drexler's clarification about his vision of an assembler resulted in Dr. Smalley saying "Cool dream."

We'll just have to see what kind of fallout results from "Rage Against the Machines."

I know all of this as I was one of the founders of Nanotechnology Magazine in 1994 and made all the arrangements for the production with Dr. Smalley. I work closely now with Judith Light Feather at The NanoTechnology Group Inc. as vice president of university relations and I'm also currently president of the Nanotechnology Development Corp. and the NanoComputer DreamTeam.

I'm a big fan of yours, as I too love a good story, and nanotech certainly provides us with that.

My Best,
Michael Forbes

NanoBot Backgrounder
Smalley plays with 'Rage'
Clash of the Nanotech Titans
"Smalley, you ........ ...."

RatBot strikes again

'Living' robots powered by muscle (BBC News)

    musclebotTiny robots powered by living muscle have been created by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles.

    The devices were formed by "growing" rat cells on microscopic silicon chips, the researchers report in the journal Nature Materials.

    Less than a millimetre long, the miniscule robots can move themselves without any external source of power.

    The work is a dramatic example of the marriage of biotechnology with the tiny world of nanotechnology. In nanotechnology, researchers often turn to the natural world for inspiration.

    But Professor Carlo Montemagno, of the University of California, Los Angeles, turns to nature not for ideas, but for actual starting materials. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Feynman's missing pieces
Difficult to be dispassionate
Carlo's just a Copycat
The Amazing Montemagno

Nanomedicine journal to debut in March

Elsevier Announces First-ever Journal of Nanomedicine
Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine to launch in March 2005 (PharmaLive)

    Elsevier, the world-leading scientific and medical publisher, announces plans to launch the world's first peer-reviewed journal devoted to nanomedicine - the emerging science of using molecular machines to treat human disease. Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine, the official publication of the American Academy of Nanomedicine, will be published quarterly, with the first issue to appear in March 2005.

    "Nanomedicine has developed very rapidly in recent years, with promising applications in areas such as recognition of cancer cells, stem cell labeling, and monitoring of DNA damage and repair," says Dr. Chiming Wei of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the new journal's Editor-in-Chief. "We hope this journal will provide a new focal point for efforts to advance this revolutionary technology for maintaining and restoring human health."

    Nanomedicine will be the first professional journal devoted solely to the medical uses of nanotechnology, bringing together experts from every scientific field involved in this new science. The journal will select and publish the most important papers in basic and clinical nanomedicine, diagnostic advances and applications, pharmacologic nanomedicine, engineering and biotechnology for clinical applications, and more. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Living on nano time
Cancer detection within spitting distance
Dendrimer patch could stick it to the syringe
Imagination at Work

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Intelligence on (and in) India

Why CIA thinks India is shining (Hindustan Times)

    The National Intelligence Council, which provides the CIA chief with long-term strategic thinking, has, in its report Mapping the Global Future, said the major global trend of 2020 will be the rise of India and China. And India may have an edge as there is “less uncertainty” because of its “well-entrenched” democratic institutions.

    Gray matter: Technologies of information, biological, material and nanotechnology will help India’s prospects for joining the “First World”, the report says.

    India is better positioned than most countries to integrate and apply new technologies, which not only help leapfrog stages of development, but also land it on the right side of the widening gulf between the “haves” and the “have-nots”, globally. And because of the purchasing power of its huge market, India will be able to “step on the intellectual property rights of others”. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
India pledges irreverence to science past
A Nano Passage to India
India, U.S. to talk nanotech

Let's nano do it

abalone1   abalone2   abalone3

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated abalones do it. I'm talking about nanotechnology, the natural way. University of California, San Diego professor Marc A. Meyers gives the facts of nanotech imitating life in this news release and video showing how and why he can stop bullets with a single mollusk.

NanoBot Backgrounder
How Thor the black lab can save the Earth
Driving under the influence of Feynman
Carlo's just a Copycat

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Surgeons run with nano-scissors

'Nano-Scissors' Laser Shows Precise Surgical Capability (Science Daily)

    nanoscissorsAn ultra-short pulse laser that can perform extremely precise surgery on tiny roundworms may be the key to understanding nerve regeneration and is an important step toward treatment of human neurological disease, according to research published in the Dec. 16 issue of Nature.

    Dr. Adela Ben-Yakar, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, led the development of the technique. It acts like a pair of tiny “nano-scissors,” able to cut, for example, nano-sized units like nerve axons, the parts of nerve cells that carry nerve impulses away from the cells to muscles or to other cells.

    “This tool opens up a new frontier for biologists studying nerve regeneration,” says Ben-Yakar. “We can also apply it to many other studies that require nanosurgery, so it’s a very versatile tool.” More here

Related News
Tiny tools tackle malaria (Mail & Guardian)
Nanoneedle gets into cells (, Jan. 11)
'Nano-needle' operates on cell (BBC News, Dec. 15, 2004)
New drugs prevent scarring after glaucoma eye surgery (Imperial College London, July 18, 2004)

NanoBot Backgrounder
Serious side effects may result from ignoring nano
Why nanoscale light matters
Living on nano time

Friday, January 14, 2005

FDA tries to get a virtual grip on nano

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now has a nanotechnology-themed Web site. Here's an excerpt from the agency's intro:

    The US Food and Drug Administration regulates a wide range of products which may utilize nanotechnology or contain nanomaterials. The Agency regulates different types of products including foods, cosmetics, drugs, devices, and veterinary products. With the advent of nanotechnology, the regulation of many products will involve more than one Center, for example a "drug" delivery "device". In these cases the assignment of regulatory lead is the responsibility of the Office of Combination Products. To facilitate the regulation of nanotechnology products, the Agency has formed a NanoTechnology Interest Group (NTIG) which is made up of representatives from all the Centers. The NTIG meets quarterly to ensure there is effective communication between the Centers. Most of the Centers also have working groups that establish the network between their different components. More here


I hope the rest of the site explains things a bit better to a very-curious general public. Tons of links in there, including this one on FDA regulation of nanotech products. Part of the problem, as the site acknowledges, is there are "no nanotech-specific guidance document at this time, all existing guidance document would apply to nanotech products."

Welcome to our elusive little world, FDA.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Living on nano time
Educating the Regulators
A little story about drugs, bass and balls

Bound to fall through the cracks

Wired News columnist Adam L. Penenberg contacted me as a source for his excellent piece, Heartaches of Journalist Bloggers. My contribution did not make the final cut (I'm an editor, too, so I know how that goes). But one great thing about bloggers is that we even throw the leftovers out there. So, with Adam's permission, here is some of our exchange:


I write a weekly media column for Wired News and have question for you: How can bloggers, whose success depends on sharing unvarnished opinions, also work as so-called objective journalists? Should readers be suspicious of bias in a journalist's work if he shares opinions via his blog? How can reporters bridge this gap?

Thanks in advance...



Hi, Adam,

Well, part of the reason my blog is popular is because of my background as a journalist, and the expectation that my opinions are, as you say, "unvarnished." This is especially important in a niche area like nanotechnology -- a science and "business" that is so young that there isn't even general agreement on what nanotech is and what it is not. What I do is not just spout out my opinions, but use them as a catalyst for discussion.

There are other nanotech bloggers who have their own agendas as venture capitalists, investment advisers, scientists and others, and their voices are important parts of the mix. As I've written in my blog before, I think all blogs should be seen in the context of who's doing the writing, and why. What do they know? What's the agenda? Where do they get their information?

I've carved out a reputation as somebody who can get discussions going because I'm a journalist who has no personal stake in the financial future of the companies covered and can take a broader view of nanotech from the point of view of somebody who was not only a columnist even when I was with a B to B publication, but was a news editor who directed coverage of the industry and has a good handle on the competing interests and agendas.

To me, this is how you really build an "industry." First, you build the communities from the bottom up and get these discussions going.

I'd never propose replacing traditional journalism with blogs, of course. Part of what my blog does is also promote the journalism work I'm doing.


Thanks for your thoughtful answers. Much appreciated.


NanoBot Backgrounder
Just who the hell do I think I am?
Does this picture make me look fat?
Thanks for the nanomemories, Intel

Nano comes between me and my hosiery

Yes! One of my posts finally made it as a link on Lingerie Article Insider! (Don't get too excited. It's about kids' socks).

NanoBot Backgrounder
Where's the NanoBaby line?
NanoSocks Road Test


"There will be a credible use of nanotechnology that will change the perspective from long-term research to near-term promise."

Steve Arnold, Polaris Venture Partners, Seattle
quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which asked "six experts to look into their crystal ball for 2005"

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Living on nano time

Dr. James Baker, biologic nanotechnology professor at the University of Michigan, wrote yesterday:

    Nanotechnology is a very young science and most of the breakthrough advances are in early stage development. Because it takes up to eight to ten years to get approval for new therapeutics, there will be a significant delay with many of the more remarkable applications for nanotechnology. Thus, the five-year window is less likely to bring unique change, whereas the ten to twenty year window is probably when the more remarkable applications will be seen.

My only question -- and it's probably a naive one, but it takes a simple man to ask a simple question -- is "why?" Yes, I understand how necessary it is for any new drug or therapy to go through a rigorous approval process, but if these are truly better, more-precise technologies than the old sloppy method of chugging a gallon of medicine at a problem the size of thimble, then aren't they deserving of "fast-track" status?

This, of course, is happening already. First, nanoscale drug delivery devices promise to take years (not to mention dollars) off of drug development simply because drug companies no longer need to use the "throw spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks" technique. And, in some cases, "fast-track" status is granted to some of these techniques.

As Carl Wherrett and John Yelovich wrote in The Motley Fool last year:

    American Pharmaceutical Partners (Nasdaq: APPX) has received fast-track status for its novel nanoparticle-based drug, Abraxane, on the back of favorable phase 3 results for use in treating metastatic breast cancer when compared to the current treatment of Taxol, produced by Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY). Taxol sales in 2003 were $9 billion for a variety of treatments. (Blogger's note: FDA approval came last week)

    Skyepharma (Nasdaq: SKYE) estimates that 40% of drug candidates are abandoned at an early stage due to the body's inability to absorb the drug. The company's nanoparticulate drug-delivery technology promises to remove a lot of these barriers, open up new opportunities, and widen the market for some current drugs on the market. More here

Outside the FDA approval process, Scott Rickert, president of Nanofilm, has the right idea. He's proposed a nanotech multiple award schedule that would give nanotech companies special preference in federal contracts and subcontracts for three years. Rickert has talked to the U.S. treasury secretary about this issue.

But that doesn't break the FDA bottleneck. The biggest hope in cutting down that wasted time lies with the U.S. National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, which promises to help cut through the red tape that clutters the path toward approval of potentially life-saving drugs.

But this program might find itself on a collision path with those who argue for a slowdown of the entire nanoworks. Clouding the issue are questions raised over nanoparticle toxicity -- questions that U.S. nanotech guru Clayton Teague says will take about five years to even begin to answer. As Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance chief Neil Gordon writes: "At stake is delaying nanotechnology scientists from finding possible cures and solutions for cancer, clean water, and cost-effective alternative energy, among many others."

Another piece of the solution is to bridge the gap between the basic materials companies and labs working on vital nanotech processes and the doctors who could really use them. I expand on that a bit over here, and am working on some more solutions along those lines.

Maybe it's just me, but isn't this more worthy of our efforts than these "nanotechnology" products?

NanoBot Backgrounder
NanoChat transcript
Nanoparticles clobber cancer with sneak attack
Serious side effects may result from ignoring nano
'All we have is speculation on toxicity'
Educating the Regulators

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

NanoChat transcript

Experts Chat about Nanotechnology (Drug Discovery & Development)

    Experts in nanotechnology gathered today in an open online chat on Nanotechnology and Medicine, hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Several new areas of research were discussed and, while the scientists admit that nanoscience and nanotechnology are in the very early stages of development, they see a potential for tremendous positive impacts on medicine.

    The panel included Richard Siegel, PhD, director of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y., James Baker, Jr., PhD, founder of the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Jeffery Schloss, who coordinates the development of nanotechnology strategy for the National Institutes of Health through work with the National Human Genome Research Institute, Bethesda, Md.

    “Nanotechnology really is a combination of nanoscience and a set of enabling technologies that utilize the fact that matter at very small length scales (less than 100 nanometers) have distinctly different properties than the same matter at larger length scales,” said Siegel. “Hence, the building blocks of matter below 100 nanometers can be used to create new materials and new devices for a wide range of applications that could not be created without nanotechnology.” More here

The entire text of the "chat" can be found here. And Rocky Rawstern of Nanotechnology Now had a few questions here.

NanoBot Backgrounder
NanoDoctors hold online office hours

The Descent of Nano

Technology Review has a Q&A interview with MIT's Angela Belcher, who doesn't even like being called a "nanotechnologist." She's "a materials chemist who works on nanosize materials."

I ran into her company's PR person at the Foresight Institute gathering a few months ago, and I asked her just that question. What she does is wonderfully innovative, but what makes it "nanotechnology?" She answered that it really isn't.

I'll call it nanotech, though, so I can write a little bit more about it here. I'm a big fan.

Belcher's ultimate goal is to grow replacement organs, but meanwhile, she's come up with some cool uses for biomaterial. She helped found a company called Cambrios -- the name borrowed from the Cambrian explosion, when all sorts of creepy-crawly things decided to cover the earth almost all at once, in evolutionary time frames. The "low-hanging fruit," BusinessSpeak for a first market opportunity, is in mixing organic and inorganic materials onto semiconductors.

Organic materials normally just don't want to cooperate with inorganic electronics, much to the annoyance of the semiconductor industry, which would prefer organic materials because they can be more easily manipulated and modified at the molecular level, giving scientists the ability to tailor their properties to do nearly anything they want.

Most of the time you throw metal and protein from a living organism together and they want nothing to do with each other. But the organic material can do something the metal cannot -- it can act just a little bit differently and unpredictably every once in a while. So, by some fluke of nature, a protein might grab hold, move some atoms around and form interesting bonds and crystals. Then you take that generation, toss it into another pile and see what evolves from there. Over time, you use controlled evolution to "grow" components that stick to electronics, do a little dance for you or whatever you want.

Think of it as the first blob in our primordial soup that happened to develop a shape that allowed it to propel itself forward and stand out from the other blobs. Before you know it, you have fish, lizards, dinosaurs and NASCAR dads.

Alzheimer's: To test or not to test

My grandmother on my mother's side suffered from Alzheimer's before she passed away a few years ago. If there were a test today that could tell me whether this fate awaits me, would I take it? I just don't know. But it's possible that such a test will be available in time for me to make that decision.

Researchers link proteins to Alzheimer's memory loss (The Daily Northwestern)

    Northwestern researchers have linked small, toxic proteins to the memory loss associated with the onset of Alzheimer's disease, opening up possibilities for new drug treatments.

    Neurobiology and physiology Prof. William L. Klein and his team of researchers published their study in the November issue of Journal of Neuroscience. The study found that proteins called amyloid-derived diffusible ligands, referred to as ADDLs, have the ability to pinpoint and bind to the brain's neural synapses where memories are formed.

    Focusing on ADDLs also may allow doctors to detect Alzheimer's with greater accuracy. Klein is currently working with chemistry Profs. Chad Mirkin and Richard Van Duyne, both of NU's Institute for Nanotechnology, on a diagnostic tool that could help identify Alzheimer's by finding ADDLs in a patients' blood samples. According to Mirkin, ADDLs "could lead to a definitive test for the disease." More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Operation Inform Chad
When nanotubes meet buckyballs ...
The nano-brain barrier
Getting better all the time