Monthly Archives: October 2010

Nano vaccine patch on the way to commercialization?

Professor Mark Kendall, the Australian scientist heading up the team that’s working on a nanopatch for vaccines without needles, and his team have just won the 2010 Translational Research Excellence Commercialisation Award. From the news item on Nanowerk,

As a consequence of winning the 2010 Translational Research Excellence Commercialisation Award, Professor Kendall will meet senior executives from global pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme in the US.

“This is important, as it is a step towards partnering our Nanopatch with one of the world’s leading vaccine companies,” he [Mark Kendall] said.

“Our ambition is for Nanopatch to be taken from the current stage of animal model success through the clinical trials, and on to the market as a next-generation vaccine delivery device, potentially displacing the needle and syringe.

“This progression requires commercialisation and partnership with the right players. This award is an important step along this pathway.”

Nanopatch has been shown in trials to provide a protective immunisation in mice, with less than a hundredth of the dosage used compared to needle and syringe.

A part of the appeal of the Nanopatch is that it is painless, needle-free and is a potential solution for those with needle phobia.

Because the vaccine is formulated in dry form, it is also thermostable, removing the need for refrigeration.

Nanopatch is smaller than a postage stamp and is dissolvable, eliminating the possibility of needle-stick injury.

Congratulations, again. (The nanopatch was last mentioned here in my July 26, 2010 posting.)

Nanotechnology regulatory framework for India

It looks like a wave of nanotechnology regulatory frameworks is developing. In mid-October 2010, India announced at a conference that a draft was in the works. From the news item on The Times of India website,

The two-day conference, titled Nanotechnology, materials and composites for frontier applications’, was inaugurated by Chavan at a city hotel. The conference is being hosted by the Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, in association with the North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, US, Tuskegee University, Albama, US, and the Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology and the Department of Information Technology, Government of India.

Chavan said, “The nanotechnology field is very exciting, and tremendous impetus will be given for the R&D in this area. A regulatory framework will help in sorting out issues of ethics and copyrights, which are currently being faced by experts in the country.”

He said Rs 1,800 crore have been spent on nano mission and there are close to one thousand researchers working in nanotechnology across the country and a handful of discoveries have been made in the field. “Some potential discoveries from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and the Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad, have been successful and has been commercialised as well,” Chavan said.

“India spends about 1 per cent of gross domestic product on research and development (R&D), which is not very encouraging compared to other countries like the US, which spends 4 to 5 per cent on R&D. We are trying to double it, but at the same time, we would also like to see more participation from the public sector in this area. Of the 1 per cent about 75 to 76 per cent comes from the private sector which is exactly opposite in the western countries. The share of public sector is more there and so should happen in India,” Chavan said.

I find the focus on commercialization and intellectual property unexpected since the discussion on regulatory frameworks in Europe and the US tends to focus on environment, health, and safety issues. For an example about the latest on Europe and nanotechnology and regulatory frameworks, I found this in Tim Haper’s Sept. 29, 2010 posting on his TNTlog,

Plastics & Rubber Weekly reports that the Belgian Environment Minister, Paul Magnette proposed five elements that should be included in nanotechnology legislation, including

* A register of nanomaterials used within the EU is established, so regulators can trace the origin of any nanoparticles to their source if they cause health or environmental problems.

* Manufacturers and retailers inform consumers of the presence of nanomaterials in their products

* Regulations provide for risk evaluation and management of nanomaterials at an EU level

* Member states also draft integrated national strategies for nanotechnology risk management, information dissemination and monitoring

* Claims made on labels of products containing nanomaterials are controlled

What makes the contrast interesting for me is that Harper is the principal for the company, Cientifica (from the About page),

Cientfica is distinct from all other companies providing consulting and information services in its knowledge of both the science and business of emerging technologies. Cientifica employees are from a variety of backgrounds, but all are highly experienced technical project managers and familiar with the commercialization of technology and the transfer of science from the laboratory to the market place.

Cientifica’s numerous reports on commercial aspects of nanotechnology and other emerging technologies are well known for cutting through the hype and getting to the root of the issues. In the same way, Cientifica uses its experience in the reality of commercializing technologies and its wide network of international science and technology practitioners to provide down-to-earth and practical advice to companies, academics and governments.

Cientifica also provides advice to investors who are considering investment in emerging technology companies.

Through this experience Cientifica has a deep understanding of the drivers and associated risks associated with investment and management of cutting edge technology projects.

As you can see the company’s focus is on commercializing emerging technologies, including nanotechnology. By the way, I’m not trying to suggest that Harper doesn’t discuss regulatory frameworks with regard to commercializing nanotechnology. I’m pointing out my own unconscious expectations when the words ‘nanotechnology’,  ‘regulatory’, and ‘framework’ are put in the same sentence.

National convo on science, technology, and engineering

There’s a new science outreach ‘kid on the block’. Canada’s Honorable Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, announced plans for an online HUB for science and technology in Canada. From the news release via the Canadian Science Policy Centre website,

The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) announced today plans for the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation to build an online HUB for the Pan-Canadian science, technology and engineering community. [emphasis mine]

“Canada is, and will remain, among the best countries in the world for scientists and researchers to pursue their discoveries while we strengthen our capacity to make their innovations available to the market here at home and around the world,” said Minister of State Goodyear. “Our government supports science and technology to improve the quality of life of Canadians, create jobs and strengthen the economy.”

The vision is for the HUB (www.connexscience.ca) to serve as an open collaborative space for everyone involved or interested in science, engineering and technology, as well as their historical and broader dimensions. The HUB will greatly contribute to the promotion of a science and technology culture in Canada.

The Museums Corporation wants the hub to be “owned” by a broad cross section of the Canadian science, technology and engineering community, and to create the digital conditions that will support the HUB in becoming a living, thriving online community.

“All Canadians have a role to play in helping shape Canada’s science, technology and engineering future,” said Denise Amyot, President and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. “We invite people to share this with their friends and colleagues. All perspectives, suggestions, ideas and submissions will be important inputs in the creation of the HUB.”

The idea for this online forum stems from a cross-Canada consultation held by the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation in 2009 to seek national partners and information on local initiatives, as well as ways for the Museums Corporation to enhance its outreach across the country. Many expressed the interest having a place where they could come together to collaborate.

The announcement was made from the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Montreal during National Science and Technology Week. NSTW is a celebration of the significance of Canada’s science and technology heritage, the importance of science and technology in today’s world, and Canada’s ongoing role as a world leader in innovation.

I’m a little puzzled as it seems to me that they have moved passed the planning and have built an online HUB; there just aren’t many people on it yet. (Quite understandbly given that it’s still early days.)

On balance, I’m happy to say after all of my criticisms about science outreach that this seems like an encouraging move and I hope it leads to a more vibrant national conversation about science and technology. You can go to Canada’s Museum of Science and Technology online HUB, called Connex Science, here to find a welcome video from Denise Amyot, the museum’s President and Chief Executive Officer and to participate in forums.

I see in the museum’s latest newsletter that Connex Science isn’t their only science outreach initiative, they also have an agreement with the National Film Board (from the newsletter),

The National Film Board of Canada and the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation have announced the beginning of a four-year partnership during which both institutions will share their respective expertise in order to create a closer working relationship between the world of audiovisual production and that of sciences and technology.

According to this news release,

Many collaborations are planned, the first of which will begin this weekend at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. The exhibition Echoes in the Ice: History, Mystery and Frozen Corpses [mentioned here in an Oct.7, 2010 posting) will include the screening of the documentary Passage by John Walker on Saturday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17 at 1 p.m. Winner of numerous awards including Best Film at the Reel to Reel International Film Festival for Youth, Grand Prize for Best Television Production at the Banff World Television Awards, Best Director and Best Cinematography at the Atlantic Film Festival, the film tells the story of John Rae, a Victorian‐era Scottish explorer who discovers the tragic fate of Sir John Franklin and his 128 crew members who perished in the Arctic ice, overcome by insanity and cannibalism, while attempting to find the Northwest Passage. The story quickly became tainted with scandal when John Rae tried to make it public.

One last bit from the newsletter,

TEDxKids at the Canada Agriculture Museum

November 9

The Canada Agriculture Museum is thrilled to be welcoming this internationally renowned not-for-profit group to its venue for a full day event that will bring attention to new projects benefitting children and youth.

Yes, TED (for kids) is coming to Canada. You can find out more about TEDxKids here.

(Thanks to a CSWA [Canadian Science Writers Assn.] tweet, I found all this info. about Connex Science and Canada’s Museum of Science and Technology.)

ETA October 29, 2010: The Pasco Phroneis blog (David Bruggeman) has a an insightful take on the museum’s initiative (excerpted from the October 28, 2010 posting),

Based on my attendance at last year’s Canadian Science Policy Conference, an effort like this could well fill a need for more communication within science and science policy circles across the country. A very large country with a comparatively small population, networking is not going to be as easy as it might be in the United States, where people who would benefit from hearing what others are doing in science and science policy stand a better chance of going to the same meetings or otherwise being in the same place.

That said, an online collaborative space is a fair amount of work. Otherwise you just have yet another discussion board (or, heaven forbid, a group blog).

Ireland’s nanotechnology strategy

Since September (2010) there’s been a bit more news about Ireland’s nanotechnology efforts than usual as I noted in my Sept, 21, 2910 posting about a visit that Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education, and Minister Liaison to the Canadian Forces, Doug Horner made to a city in the other country that shares that island, Northern Ireland’s Ulster, to see its Nanotechnology Centre.

On the Ireland front, Forfás, Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise and science, released, August 31, 2010, its Nanotechnology Commercialisation Framework 2010 -2014 with these comments (from the news release),

A substantial investment by the Irish Government in nanotechnology in recent years has made Ireland home to a world-class infrastructural base which will serve as a strong foundation to produce high quality nanotechnology research, push commercialisation and ensure Ireland’s international competitiveness in this space, according to a new report published today by Forfás, Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise and science. Ireland’s Nanotechnology Commercialisation Framework 2010-2014 presents a national framework to position Ireland as a knowledge and innovation centre for certain niche areas of nanotechnology.

Shortly after the framework was released an Irish delegation visited Russia to participate in a forum with RUSNANO (from the news item on Azonano),

On the 8th of September [2010] the one-day Russian-Ireland Forum of Nanotechnology was held in the head office of the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (Russia). As the leading Russian manufacturer of equipment for nanoscience NT-MDT Co. participated in the Forum.

The Forum was organized by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (RUSNANO).

SFI is the statutory agency in Ireland responsible for disbursing funds for basic science research with a strategic focus. SFI plays a leading role in the implementation of the National Development Plan of Ireland 2007-2013. Under its remit, SFI invests in new knowledge projects in the area of information and energy-efficient technologies, nano- and biotechnologies, academic researchers.

RUSNANO is Russian state owned corporation established in 2007 to enable Government policy in the field of Nanotechnology. The corporation is aimed at commercializing developments in nanotechnology. RUSNANO co-invests in nanotechnology industry projects that have high commercial potential or social benefit.

President of Ireland Mary McAleese and RUSNANO CEO and Chairman of the Executive Broad Anatoly Chubais opened the Forum. In the welcoming remark, President of Ireland stressed the importance of the Forum and scientific cooperation between Russia and Ireland.

I see that NT-MDT is more intimately tied to Russian enterprise than I had realized. (I have previously posted about NT-MDT and the education market in this October 25, 2010 posting.)

Getting back to the framework, an October 18, 2010 posting on Intellibriefs notes this,

After investing heavily in infrastructure dedicated to nanotechnology, Ireland gets a real strategy and a coordination group involving industrialists, academics and officials from government agencies.

In August 2010 the Irish agency “PACKAGE” (Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation [aka Forfás]), issued a report recommending to target three key technology areas: advanced materials, electronics technology for Information and communication, and nanobiotechnology. This is to encourage the development of new products in the areas of electronics, medical devices and diagnostics, environmental applications and improved industrial processes.

This appears to be a translation of a French language news item from bulletins-electroniques.com,

Après avoir investi massivement dans les infrastructures dédiées aux nanotechnologies, l’Irlande se dote d’une véritable stratégie et d’un groupe de coordination associant des industriels, des universitaires et des responsables d’agences gouvernementales.

En août 2010 l’agence irlandaise “FORFAS” (Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation), a publié un rapport préconisant de cibler 3 domaines technologiques-clé : les matériaux avancés, l’électronique pour les technologies de l’information et la communication et les nanobiotechnologies. Il s’agit de favoriser le développement de produits nouveaux dans les secteurs de l’électronique, des dispositifs médicaux et outils de diagnostic, des applications environnementales et de l’amélioration des procédés industriels.

All of this puts me in mind of how Ireland established itself economically in the 1990s by focusing on science and technology. It appears they are about to take another gamble using a similar strategy but focusing on new sciences and technologies such as nanotechnology in a fashion designed to mobilize as much of the population as possible, i.e., a national strategy communicated as widely as possible.

Cats and engineers

Thanks to GrrlScientist at The Guardian Science blogs, I’ve reacquainted myself with a YouTube instructional video about engineers and cats. It’s a little over six minutes long and as GrrlScientist points out,

The “Art Critic” music is Mozart’s “Requiem, Rex Tremendae” and the song on the ending credits is called “Sparky’s New Bike.” Both from Shockwave-sound.com royalty free music website.

Since Christmas (and other holidays) is coming, if you would like to give someone the gift of a cat t-shirt made by these guys, go here.

Here’s the video,

I do love the bit about ‘corporal cuddling’ as tough love for when the cats have misbehaved.

Some life at BC Genome

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve gotten an invitation for an event put on by Genome BC. I thought they’d disappeared but I was wrong; they are celebrating their 10th anniversary on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. From the invite,

While DNA can’t talk, the information inside the genome of every living thing, including humans, can say a lot. We’ve heard about successes in sequencing the genomes of certain cancers, emerging global diseases such as H1N1, SARS, and others. We can even have our personal genome sequenced for a few thousand dollars. But what does this really mean?

Globally, our world faces serious challenges to our health and sustainability. Fields such as genomics open new doors to solving seemingly insurmountable health and resource issues. So what will genomics bring to your health and the health of your family?

Please join us for an evening of engaging and meaningful dialogue at the inaugural Don Rix Distinguished Keynote Address featuring Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust in the UK. [emphasis mine]

This free event will provide participants an opportunity to learn where health care is heading in the 21st century from the groundbreaking developments in “cancer genes”, genetic breakthroughs in Parkinson’s, new insights into the aging process, and epidemics that sweep our globe.

There will also be a wine and cheese reception, for registered guests only, that will provide you an opportunity for dialogue with Mark Walport and some of BC’s top research scientists, policy makers, and physicians. You will have an opportunity to learn more about the relevance of genomics research taking place right here in BC – how it impacts you and your family across every major sector in BC – from health care to forestry and fisheries – and the environmentthe environment.

The guest speaker, Sir Mark Walport, is not familiar to me but the Wellcome Trust is. I have come across more than reference to it over the years. I gather they are an important funding agency in the UK for biomedical and other associated research. From their Vision page,

Our vision is to achieve extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. In pursuit of this, we support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities.

We focus on three key areas of activity, reaching across five major research challenges.

Our funding focuses on supporting outstanding researchers, accelerating the application of research and exploring medicine in historical and cultural contexts.

There’s a talk with a Q&A session from 4:30 to 6:00 pm and a wine and cheese reception for registered guests (there’s free registration) follows from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. I gather that if you don’t register, you won’t be welcome (so to speak) to help yourself to wine and cheese at the reception.

Replacing the lithographic process for semi-conductor chips with self-assemby; one step closer in Canada

A news release from Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnoloy (NINT), their first this year,  about researchers at NINT and at the University of Alberta claiming that a,

Decrease in self-assembly processing time creates viable alternative to conventional lithography

Thanks to a microwave oven, the fundamental nanotechnology process of self assembly may soon replace the lithographic processing use to make the ubiquitous semi-conductor chips. By using microwaves, researchers at Canada’s National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) and the University of Alberta have dramatically decreased the cooking time for a specific molecular self-assembly process used to assemble block copolymers, and have now made it a viable alternative to the conventional lithography process for use in patterning semi-conductors. When the team of chemists and electrical engineering researchers replaced convective heat with a microwave oven, nano-sized particles were encouraged to organize themselves into very regular patterns extremely quickly – reducing the processing time from days to less than one minute. [emphasis mine]

The processing time is very important if this self-assembly process is to be introduced to industrial semi-conductor fabrication. In the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, the promise of self-assembly to address the need to put more and more functionality onto chips was recognized. The block co-polymer method, which directs nanomaterials to create molds and then fills them in with a target material, was known to be capable of creating very detailed patterns many times smaller than current technology. But previously the time needed for molecules to organize themselves was too long to be useful for the industry. The change of the heat source has brought that processing time well under the suggested target of 4 minutes.

“This is one of the first examples of the self-assembly process being used to address a real world problem for the semi-conductor industry,” said Dr. Jillian Buriak “We’ve got the process; the next step is to exploit it to make something useful.”

The process for quicker assembly is outlined in new paper in the American Chemical Society’s ACS Nano, posted on-line October 21, 2010. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nn102387c

The news release can be found Eureka Alert but is not yet available on NINT’s website.

Teaching nanotechnology in 2nd Life

I’m not sure if this is “applying nanotechnology to health problems” or if it’s nanomedicine but that’s what Ananth Annapragada, Ph.D., holder of the Robert H. Graham Professorship of Entrepreneurial Biomedical Informatics and Bioengineering at the University of Texas (UT) Health School of Biomedical Informatics and fellow at the IC² Institute, an interdisciplinary research unit of The University of Texas at Austi (also on the faculty of the UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and UT Austin Department of Biomedical Engineering [that's a lot of job titles]), is teaching distance education students via 2nd Life.

From the news item on Nanowerk,

When he is not teaching students how to apply nanotechnology to health problems, Annapragada is building miniaturized drug delivery systems engineered to ferry agents through the bloodstream to specific targets. His nanocarriers are so small they are measured in billionths of a meter.

“It was a leap of faith to see if this would work,” said Annapragada, who is making his teaching debut in Second Life. “I’m getting the equivalent if not better class participation.”

Annapragada likes the fact that he can gather students from different locations in the same virtual classroom at the same time. “Everyone gets the same learning experience,” he said. “It reduces a geographically-distributed student group to the same interactive common denominator.”

Beginning the three-hour class with a short lecture, he then divides students into work groups. During the next hour or so, he “turns the students loose” to work on a nano problem. He normally concludes with a lecture.

Targeted drug delivery is a hot topic in nanomedicine and was the subject of a recent class. When medicine is injected into the bloodstream, often relatively little reaches its intended target.

One nano solution being researched by Annapragada and others in the field involves packaging drugs in tiny carriers designed to bind to diseased cells. It requires extensive knowledge of the interaction between the substances on the surfaces of both the drug carrier and the diseased cell.

The students’ nano problem that day was to develop a nanocarrier for targeting brain tumors. Their homework was to come up with the specifics.

There are students from UTHealth, UT Austin, Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine. Their degree programs include biology, biomedical engineering and physics. Some are enrolled in the Nanobiology Interdisciplinary Graduate Training Program operated by the Gulf Coast Consortia. There are 25 in the class.

“This is the only nanomedicine course in the UT System that I’m aware of,” Annapragada said. “It’s appropriate that I’m using the novel methodology of Second Life. Nanomedicine is an evolving field. There is no textbook. We are writing the textbook as we go.”

I heard a presentation by Dr. DeNel Rehberg Sedo about teaching in a 2nd Life classroom at a 2007 conference for the Association of Internet Researchers. Contrary to expectations, for the most part her students in Nova Scotia (Canada) at Mount St. Vincent University did not take to 2nd Life easily nor were they were particularly enthused about the experience.

There are a number of possibilities as to why that may have been the case. (1) The students were studying communication and/or public relations programmes; subjects which may not lend themselves easily to a virtual classroom.  (2) The year 2007 would represent fairly early adoption of a new technology for the classroom  (Brava DeNel! and students!) and early adoption is always littered with setbacks and problems as students and instructors “write the textbook as they go.” (3) Students in 2007 may not have had sufficiently powerful systems for the 2nd Life environment. (I was in a student programme and found that while I had a system that was the minimum required for 2nd Life participation, the minimum just wasn’t good enough.)

Another early adopter of 2nd Life was the UK’s National Physical Laboratory. They featured a nanotechnology outreach project, Nanolands which was in part designed by Troy McConaghy, a Canadian who amongst other activities produces science exhibits in 2nd Life. (my Sept. 3 2008 interview with Troy)

I find these bits of news and information intriguing as I am fascinated by the increasing inroads that new media and social media are making into how science and technology are communicated and discussed.

RUSTEC holds an international education conference

November 15-19, 2o10 will see Arizona State University hosting NT-MDT and RUSTEC’s (Russian Technology Science and Education Consortia) first international workshop. I mentioned (in my June 30, 2010 posting about nanoeducation in Colombia, Russia, and Iral) NT-MDT and RUSTEC in the context of their May 2010 nanoeducation conference held in Russia at the Kurchatov Institute.

From the latest news item about NT-MDT and RUSTEC on Nanowerk,

NT-MDT Co. and the first international workshop of RUSTEC, the USA NT-MDT Co. will be sponsor and the official partner of the first international workshop of Russian Science Technology and Educational Consortia (RUSTEC) at Arizona State University (ASU), the USA.

Director-General of the NT-MDT Co. Viktor Bykov will chair the workshop together with Associate Vice-President for Research at ASU Stephen Goodnick and Associate Research Professor at ASU Anatoli Korkin.

The aim of the workshop is collaboration and prospective partnership between American and Russian scientific representatives. It will be a great forum for non-profit organization, companies, universities and research centers of the both countries.

More details about the workshop can be found on this Arizona State University webpage.

As for NT-MDT, it’s a trifle unusual in that it’s both an instrumentation company and it sells products to educators. Here’s their mission statement (from their About page),

Our mission is to enable researchers, engineers and developers to conduct nanoscale research by creating ever more perfect nanotechnology instrumentation. Along the way, we maintain a global perspective, always taking into consideration the needs of student in the classroom, the researcher at the cutting edge in the laboratory, and the practicalities of industrial R&D.

This reminds me a little of Apple which got its MAC computers into schools so that youngsters (who grow into adults) would choose to purchase Macs in the future. In this case, NT-MDT a company which produces equipment for scanning probe microscopy (SPM) is reaching out to educators who need equipment such as SPM’s in the classroom. So the company hosts workshops and conference about nanotechnology and, yes, they have a platform such as NANOEDUCATOR which bundles their SPM’s with software and other materials appropriate for teachers (from the product page),

The emerging field of nanotechnology offers promise in the development of different areas of life – from environmental protection to consumer goods production, from electronics to energetics, from healthcare to aerospace defense.

Thus the application of nanotechnology has a great influence not only on science, but also on daily activity, therefore, mentoring the next generation of researchers in nanoscience by means of thorough hands-on training is an all-important question.

For this purpose we designed NANOEDUCATOR – the scientific training complex with a set of learning aids, accessories for introducing students to nanotechnology and giving them a basic understanding of how work with objects at nanoscale level.

NANOEDUCATOR, student oriented SPM, is your key to the minuscule world, developed for use by even first-time microscope users, it can navigate through the step-by-step operation. This device is designed to capture the students interest in science and train future nanotechnologists using both AFM and STM techniques.

I gather the company sells its standard markets and the education market separately as it encourages brand awareness amongst youngsters.