Tuesday, October 10, 2006

FDA is told: 'Can't you hear nano knockin'? '

David Rejeski, director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, told the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during a hearing today that "there are currently 130 nano-based drugs and delivery systems and 125 devices of biomedical devices in preclinical, clinical or commercial development — an increase of almost 70 percent just since last year. While FDA already has approved some products with materials in the nanosize range, prospects for future growth in this area—and the burden it will place on the agency’s resources — are striking."

Take a look at Rejeski's comments and presentation here. The title of the presentation: "FDA and Nanotechnology: Public Perceptions Matter."

I could not agree more. This simple fact was one of the reasons behind this blog's launch back in 2003. But, in my contrarian tradition, let me add one further warning: Public perceptions can be more easily manipulated when it comes to a science and technology filled with as many unknowns as nano.

Like my old ink-stained journalism prof. drummed into my head back in the mid-'80s, take a look at the interest your source has in certain outcomes (or perceptions), and of course seek out more than one avenue for information.

I spoke just yesterday to a leading nanotech scientist and entrepreneur for a freelance story I'm working on. I asked him about the FDA preparedness issue. The answer I received surprised me. Not only is the FDA well informed about the specific nanotech-based drugs that are about to cross its desk, but the National Nanotechnology Initiative is getting ready to launch a pretty convincing campaign to show the public exactly what is known about these new-generation drugs.

I won't give away the store yet, but stay tuned for more on that.

Ex-FDA official concludes FDA needs more dough
Nanotech hocus group
Taking toxicity out of quantum dots
Nanotech's 'difficult foe'
Perceptive nano
Perception is de facto nano fact
FDA should put in more face time

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nanotech analyst Marlene not Bourne yesterday

bourneI have known MEMS and nanotechnology analyst Marlene Bourne ever since my stint a few years ago at Small Times magazine, where she was a columnist and I was news editor. I have always admired the way she injects a voice of reason into any topic she writes about, whether it's MEMS accelerometers for automotive air bags or the latest trend in nanotech-related investing: "cleantech."

The latter is the topic of one of Marlene's podcasts, where she continues her tradition of cutting through all the latest hype-and-deflate media cycles and gets to the bottom line. And, knowing Marlene, any opinion she gives -- even in the brief podcast format -- is backed by research and data. Everybody should check out her latest venture, The Bourne Report and associated podcasts, including this one on the cleantech investment bandwagon.

Marlene has seen hype before, so I believe her when she writes that although investors have put a lot of money into renewable energy -- also known as green power or cleantech -- and have flocked to anything related to solar energy, you need to look at what's commercially available now.

"Given the level of funding these startups have received and the number of new companies that continue to enter this segment, in my opinion I think there's a bit of a bubble emerging here. I've definitely seen it happen before," Marlene says.

Marlene talks about how the cleantech investment phenomenon is not new, but the difference now is that enabling technology, including nanotech, is finally almost ready for prime time. New nanomaterials and fabrication methods make for photovoltaic cells that are smaller and more efficient, for example. But, Bourne warns, we're still looking at a minimum of five years before there's any real market impact of note in next-generation solar cells.

Marlene does see two other small tech enabled energy applications that are more near term. I won't give it away, though. Listen to find out.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Howard Lovy's NanoShop

Howard Lovy's NanoShop is open. Come on in, browse around, find everything from stain-free shirts to magazine subscriptions.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ex-FDA official concludes FDA needs more dough

I suppose I need to give you my take on the big nanotech story of the day. Here are just the facts, ma'am: The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, a group whose mission is to identify regulatory gaps in nanotechnology, hires a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official to do a study that concludes, surprise, there are regulatory gaps in nanotechnology at the FDA that can be solved if more money and authority were to be funneled into his old office.

The End

Book Review: 'The Last Mortal Man'

There's a great deal of new nanotech-themed fiction out there that I've been neglecting. I wish I had time to read them all, but I'll do my best to find reviews as I go along. I got out of the habit of covering the cult (or culture) of nanotech for a while. But that has always been an important mission of this blog. The way we dream has a direct impact on our reality.

And if any loyal reader has read a book, watched a film or played a videogame with a nanotech theme and would like to write a review for NanoBot, please drop me a note.

Here's a review from SciFi.com of the first book in what promises to be an exciting series exploring the gap between nano-enabled immortals and those who are still falling toward that out-of-fashion thing called death.

Oh, and if you want to buy the book, click on the picture from my blog and Amazon will toss me a few coins.

The Last Mortal Man
If you have enough money, nano-biology has the cure for what ails you—even death
Review by Cynthia Ward, SciFi.com

Twenty-four-year-old Alexa DuBois grew up poor in Louisiana, where industrial waste poisons the groundwater and prematurely ends her family's lives—including, soon, her own. She can't afford the nano-level cell scrubbing that would eliminate her metastasized cancer, never mind the $10 million process that would make her immortal—Deathless. Upset that she must die only because she's poor, Alexa joins some other angry young people in a plot to assassinate Lucius Sterling.

Trillionaire Lucius Sterling is the founder and owner of Sterling Nanotech. But he didn't invent the nanotechnology that feeds the world and provides Deathlessness to the super-rich. That technology was invented by the brilliant idealist Leonardo Fontesca, who wants to save everyone in the world from death. But Fontesca is only an employee of Sterling Nanotech. Lucius Sterling decides who is worthy of immortality, and he allows only a few rich people to become Deathless. The assassins seek to liberate Deathlessness for everyone. More here

Welcome to the Cyberpunk future
SciFi imitating science fiction
A response to 'I, Nanobot'

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Starpharma to acquire Dendritic Nanotechnologies

Dendritic Nanotechnologies Inc. (DNT) and Starpharma Holdings Limited (ASX:SPL, USOTC:SPHRY), today signed an agreement for Starpharma to acquire the outstanding equity of U.S.-based DNT for $6.97 million, payable through the issue of Starpharma shares. Starpharma currently owns 33% of DNT, and The Dow Chemical Company is the other major shareholder, with a 30% equity stake.

The transaction is subject to DNT shareholder approval, which is expected to be obtained in the next two weeks. DNT will retain its corporate identity, remain a U.S. corporation based in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, and will become a wholly owned operating subsidiary of Starpharma.

The resulting company will be positioned as the global leader in dendrimers, holding a dominant IP portfolio in the field of dendrimer-based nanotechnology. More here.


Nanomedicine story: The writer's cut
Day of the Dendrimer
The Tale of Tomalia

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The nanotox story: Back to the facts

David Talbot of Technology Review makes up for his magazine's previous inadequate nanotox reporting in his blog post subtitled: The study of "nanotoxicity" might seem more compelling if there was an actual nano-victim out there. That says it all. Thank you, David.

Let the facts interfere with your nanotox story

Nano uber alles?

Barnaby Feder of The New York Times reported last week on one weakness inherent in the U.S. nanotech funding system: A grant here, a grant there, but there seems to be nobody really in charge of the vision thing. Feder reports:

In testimony on that (National Research Council's) report last Thursday before the House Science Committee, some experts said that the less than $40 million being spent on such (safety) research each year is not only too little but that the effort has been an incoherent reflection of the interests of the many individual researchers supported by various government agencies.

In a reflection of the challenges ahead, one leading expert told the committee that any centralized effort by the government to try to focus such research on the toughest questions could be fruitless. More here

This stands in contrast to Germany, which (surprise) has a comparatively regimented and more-efficient nanotech funding system set up. Back when I was invited to nanotech conferences, I remember speaking to a German representative who showed me a map of her country, with each region blocked off to indicate public-private partnerships devoted to particular areas of nanotechnology.

Germany has nine regional "networks of competence" (PDF, 2.53 MB). For example: nanoanalytics in Munster, nanobio in Munich, nanochem in Saarbrucken, nano-optics in Berlin, etc.

I thought then, and still do, that this system would never fly in the United States. We just hate being told what to do by the federal government. Do we need regional focus and a nano kaiser at the top? It sure would make the train of nanotech progress run on time, but ...

Ruh-Roh, Ranobots!

While nanotech scientists and promoters continue to bark up the wrong tree over the as-yet nonexistent movie version of Michael Crichton's "Prey," the WB network has tossed them a new bone to pick.

Well, more like a snack. A Scooby snack.

A ... nanotech ... Scooby snack.

Yes, you read this correctly. Scooby-Doo has gone nano, and no amount of whining and begging from those engaged in non-cartoon nanotech can stop it.

It seems that Shaggy had a rich uncle, Albert Shaggleford, who disappeared: "Zoinks! We're like gaziillionaires Scoob!" Uncle Albert was also a genius who left the clueless Shaggy with some nanobots that, of course, get mixed in with his mutt's Scooby-snacks. Zany side-effects ensue, with Scooby given the ability "to fly or turn into a giant robot."

"Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue" premiered Saturday, Sept. 23.

Now, let's see whether those meddling nanoscientists will start barking about the toon, or roll over and play dead.

Cranky Crichton hasn't a Hollywood 'Prey'er
Nanobots 'Lost' in 'The Dark Tower'
Nanobots: The Wonder Years

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Day of Blog Atonement

A Yom Kippur prayer that seemed to speak directly to me this year:

Keep me far from petty self-regard and petty pride, from anger, impatience, despair, gossip and all bad traits.

Let me not be overwhelmed by jealousy of others; let others not be overwhelmed by jealousy of me. Grant me the gift of seeing other people's merits, not their faults.

Be a little CAD


Attention CAD designers: So, you want to become a molecular engineer? Take your software, and nanosize it. Machine Design magazine has the scoop in an article by Mark Sims, CEO of Nanorex Inc.

(Full disclosure: I was a communications consultant for Nanorex when the Machine Design article was written.)

Everything is animated
This little joint is jumping
Images of the possible

Nanotech hocus group


Maybe it's just me, but it's painful to watch this video (.mov 8.36 MB) of a focus group, sponsored by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, discuss nanotechnology, safety, risk and regulation as they relate to cosmetics. It appeared that these women were given neither adequate information nor time to form opinions on the subject.

I am no expert on focus groups, and whether this one was meant to represent only a single snapshot in time, with follow-ups planned, but this video standing alone tells me only one thing about public attitudes toward nanotech in cosmetics: It's a naked face waiting to be powdered, rouged and mascaraed by whichever nanotech makeup artist gets to them first.

FDA should put in more face time
Kids grill scientist dad (with ketchup and mustard)
Indigestible nanotech claim

Nano Nerd 2.0

Lobo lineman uses his smarts on field and in the classroom By Rick Kretzschmar, Longview (Texas) News-Journal

John Todd someday wants to be in a field most people don't know about: nanotechnology. Todd said he understands when he gets reactions such as, "Nano what?" when he tells people about this field, which is the application of materials and devices on an atomic scale.

Todd also plays football for Longview High School, but even when he strolls the team's locker room — Lobo Den — nanotechnology runs through his mind.

"With nanotechnology, you can build a microscopic sphere that can hold as much carbon dioxide as there is in the entire Lobo Den," Todd said. "There are possibilities of creating energy with nanotechnology, with superconductors or hydrogen power."

It's not typical conversation for a teenager, let alone football player. Then again, Todd is not typical high school senior, and smarter than most people. More here

Georgia Tech, meet your new nanotech wide receiver
Texas ropes young nano herd
Not your father's 'shop' class