The latest news from academia, regulators
research labs and other things of interest
Posted: June 4, 2010
Nanomedicine in The Netherlands - new report
(Nanowerk News) Nanotechnology promises employment, sustainability and health. The Dutch
government invests heavily in it. But how do we achieve these promises? In
preparation for a parliamentary debate about nanotechnology on 21 April 2010, the
Rathenau Institute initiated a working visit of MPs to one of the most promising
areas of its application: healthcare.
The note Nanomedicine in the Netherlands sets out the promises, challenges and issues surrounding 'nanomedicine'.
Bacteria, viruses, unhealthy diet or lifestyle, and errors in the genetic code, They all make
us sick in different ways. But they also have one thing in common: they all operate at the
molecular level. Nanotechnology manipulates and analyses matter at this level and
therefore promises groundbreaking insights and solutions. Nanomedicine fits into a long
tradition of medical science to search for biological mechanisms of disease at deepening
physiological levels. According to researchers and developers, this knowledge shall lead
to earlier detection, more accurate treatment of diseases and new treatments such as
Nanotechnology also offers possibilities for the miniaturisation of various medical devices
and their integration with (wireless) ICT. Diagnosis and treatment can take place outside
the laboratory or clinic, even at the patient's home. Continuous monitoring of health
seems to be within reach, also for healthy people.1 In short, nanotechnology promises a
wave of new research areas in medicine and new applications for healthcare.
A long-term task
The ambitions for nanomedicine are high. "A revolution in the prevention, diagnosis and
treatment of many chronically debilitating diseases", Dutch nano-scientists claimed in
2007. No small task - the researchers anticipate twenty years development time. Even
with the good starting position for nanomedicine in The Netherlands – a strong electronics
sector and high quality life science research – it will be a long term task to fulfil its
At the end of 2009, the government continued its financial support of research and
development through the proposed High Tech Systems & Materials (HTS&M) initiative of
the Economic Structure Enhancing Fund (FES). This funding is used for research for
understanding the causes of the emergence of diseases and translation into functional
nanomaterials, nano-electronic devices and artificial molecular machines. But the clinical value of these new applications needs to be demonstrated. Bottlenecks are discussed in this note.
Once developed, nanomedical applications can also present big challenges. Consider the
commitment to prevention made by molecular imaging which has stimulated the growing
exchange of detailed health information and increased opportunities for self-management
patient care. We therefore look at the trends and their implications for the patient in this
note as well.
Orientation Towards the Future
Nanotechnology promises to give key support to future health care such as the
comprehensive ideal of "PPP Medicine": predictive, preventive and personalised. Timely
and tailored intervention improves quality of care and life. A fourth element is often added
as well: participatory. Care should be organised around the patient's medical specifics
rather than around institutions. Moreover, the patient's active participation is expected to
This kind of future visions is full of technological promises which often will not be fulfilled.
But visions give direction and change our view of future developments - in this case of
care and health. The pressing question then is whether technological change fits into
healthcare challenges. Healthcare is suffering from high costs, looming labour shortages
and complex information exchange. What solutions does nanotechnology provide for
these social issues? And what do nano applications do to ensure quality, access and
affordability of care? What is expected of patients and do they need support?
This note sets out a number of important points for MPs to prepare for the visit in April
2010. What exactly are the promises of nanomedicine (page 7)? What researchers and
companies in The Netherlands are engaged in nanomedicine(page 12)? How can we fulfil
the promises(page 15)? And finally, what are the main political issues for this field of
application (page 21)?