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Posted: March 11, 2009
Europeans showing how big nanomedicine really is
(Nanowerk News) Scientists have been making strides in the field of nanomedicine, a key subfield of nanotechnology tackling disease treatment, drug delivery and medical diagnostics. The EU-funded NANOMED ('Nanomedicine ethical, regulatory, social and economic environment') project is focusing on all aspects of nanomedicine, with emphasis on providing an objective answer to claims that this field will have a huge impact on the healthcare sector. The one-year project is funded under the NMP Theme (Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production) of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to the tune of roughly EUR 700 000.
Scientists define nanomedicine as the repair, construction and control of human biological systems using devices built upon nanotechnology standards. For the NANOMED project partners, their goal is to assess the various aspects of this subfield like economic, regulatory, ethics, communication and patient attitudes. Their work is expected to help EU policymakers direct what has been identified as a significant area for strategic investment in FP7.
'Even if we don't see the nanorobots of Fantastic Voyage fame for a few years, nanomedicine still has immense short-term potential to impact all of our lives,' explained Professor Sir John Beringer, member of the Council for Science and Technology, Britain's top-level independent advisory body on science and technology policy issues, and chairman of the NANOMED project.
'Working at the nanoscale is already leading to new highly targeted medicines, improved imaging and diagnostics of disease and even a new generation of implantable sensors for monitoring your health,' he said. 'Therefore, I am delighted the EU recognises the importance of having a strategic approach to its development.'
The NANOMED consortium is made up of experts from Europe including Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany, the French Atomic Energy Commission and Genetic Interest Group Ltd in the UK.
'In this project, I believe we have managed to assemble a team with both the experience and understanding to create what I believe will be a unique report covering all aspects,' Sir Beringer remarked. 'For example, we aim to have the first accurate projections of market size and potential. To date, this has been impossible with many companies using nanomedicine, but not describing themselves as such.'
Sir Beringer noted how discussions on regulatory aspects of nanotechnology are also identifying the need that regulations should either be extended or new ones should be created.
'A further interesting aspect is that the current economic crisis seems certain to increase public interest in policymaking and funding priorities, and a case will need to be made for nanomedicine,' the researcher commented. 'The final members of working parties are being recruited and the final report will be presented at the end of the year.'
Ultimately, the researchers believe that in order to sustain the competitiveness of nanomedical research and development in Europe and in the European healthcare industry, the impacts and consequences of this subfield must be understood in advance. NANOMED will offer European stakeholders a set of recommendations to support decision-making as regards nanomedical innovations.
The European Technology Platform (ETP) Nanotechnology, formed by 53 European stakeholders (composed of academic and industrial experts), wrote a 'vision document' on nanotechnology outlining the extrapolation of needs until 2020. Three priorities exist: nanotechnology-based diagnostics and imaging, targeted drug delivery and release, and regenerative medicine.
From a global perspective, more than 130 nanotech-based drugs and delivery systems have been developed.