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Posted: Oct 14, 2011
Swedish-Italian workshop on nanoscience and medical technology
(Nanowerk News) The "Swedish-Italian Workshop on Nanoscience and Medical Technology" was held in Stockholm on 29 and 30 September at YKI, Institute for Surface Chemistry. The event was organized by the Scientific Office of the Embassy of Italy in Sweden in collaboration with Institute for Surface Chemistry (YKI, Ytkemiska Institutet). The Italian company Bracco Imaging, European leader in contrast media for medical imaging, also provided financial support for the local organization.
The event was quite timely in view of the forthcoming calls for European projects, in particular the 7th EU Framework Programme in the fields of Health and Nanotechnology, with deadlines for proposal submission in November-December 2011.
The conference was opened by the welcome of H.E. Ambassador Angelo Persiani and Peter Alberius, President of YKI, and then continued with a speech by Prof. Fabio Beltram, Director of the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, the elite University in Italy. He introduced the activities of the NEST laboratory (National Enterprise for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology), the largest center of interdisciplinary research on nanoscience and education in Italy, held in cooperation with the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the National Research Council (CNR). Prof. Dag Winkler, Director of the Microtechnology and Nanoscience Department of Chalmers University of Technology, described the broad activities of this Department in the field of Nanoscience and medical technology currently ongoing in Göteborg, Sweden and within the Swedish network.
During the workshop, 18 Swedish and 18 Italian experts offered a comprehensive overview of the most prominent activities in the two Countries in several fields: bio-sensors, bio-electronics, contrast media for imaging and bio-analysis, nanoparticles for drug delivery eventually combined with diagnosis possibilities (known in the field as "theranostics").
Several companies from both countries, including Bracco, Finceramica and Colorbbia from Italy as well as AstraZeneca and Spago Imaging from Sweden, presented their recent results in the field and gave a clear overview of the potential impact of nanotechnology in improving existing products as well as generating new solutions for the grand challenges that medicine is facing.
A very important session was devoted to "tissue engineering", i.e. the creation of artificial tissues and organs to replace diseased or damaged ones, thus reducing the need for human organs from donors for transplantation, whose availability is always difficult to predict. A "keynote lecturer", in this field was held by Prof. Paolo Macchiarini, who recently joined the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (the Institute that awards the Nobel Prize in Medicine each year).
Prof. Macchiarini presented the results of his recent surgery works, performed at the Karolinska, where for the first time a synthetic trachea (windpipe) made of porous nanocomposites was transplanted into a human patient. This was the base for the trachea reconstruction using stem cells from the patient himself, thus eliminating any possible problem of rejection. The artificial structure was designed to dissolve in a few months, leaving a totally natural organ. It is clear that this could be a first step in a revolution in regenerative medicine, reducing the need for conventional transplants, but it is also clear that the Prof. Macchiarini was able to perform this action thanks to the collaboration of experts in nanotechnology for the design of the scaffold, bioreactors for the growth of stem cells and biological tissues and dedicated infrastructure in Stockholm.
Besides purely scientific presentations, Mats Johnsson, adviser to the Minister of Education and Research, and Linda Bell, coordinator for European Agency for the Swedish Innovation (VINNOVA) gave their presentations at this event. The first presented the further increase of the Swedish government's investment in research for the coming two years, largely addressed in strategic areas for the development of the country, among them: "Material Science", "Nano-science", "Nanoengineering", " Molecular Biosciences "," Neuroscience "and" Stemcells and regenerative medicine", all well in line with the topic of the workshop and which may support project proposals between the two countries.
Dr. Johnsson also outlined the framework for international investment in research and related results, with the highlight that the Swedish leadership in research funding is mainly due to the massive industrial investment in research (about 3% of GDP) while the state (about 1% ) participation is not really different from the contribution of other European countries, including Italy.
Following Dr. Johnsson, Dr. Bell presented the next relevant calls of the 7th Framework Programme of the EU, pointing out that several opportunities for funding request in new techniques for medicine and nanotechnology will be available by the end of November.
The stimulation of joint projects was, in fact, a priority for the event and several Italian and Swedish scientists have already decided to submit proposals for research projects and joint actions within the FP7 open calls.