As a responsible public relations professional, you try to be proactive, keeping up with changes in technology and the resulting demands from your organization or clients. More companies are becoming involved in nanotechnology, and PR pros should not treat the subject as some black hole from which to run. Issues surrounding nanotechnology will have to be dealt with, from media relations to issues management to ethics. Like neurotechnology, the field of nanotechnology is growing at an exponential rate. It is so new that no one is really sure what development will come next — nanotech researchers are currently developing specialty areas such as nanobiology, nanopharmacology, and nanorobots.
Maybe your organization or client has no interest in nanotechnology yet, but as an up-to-date PR pro, you should be able to help separate myth or fear from fact if needed. The implications of nanotechnology in the medical field alone are numerous. In the book The Future of the Mind, physicist Michio Kaku writes of nanobots:
“On the surface, the nanobot is simple: an atomic machine with arms and clippers that grabs molecules, cuts them at specific points, and then splices them back together. By cutting and pasting various atoms, the nanobot can create almost any know molecule, like a magician pulling something out of a hat. It can also self-reproduce, so it is necessary to build only one nanobot. This nanobot will then take raw materials, digest them, and create millions of other nanobots.”
Bowen seems to have discovered nanotechnology relatively recently and seems not to realize how prevalent nanotechnology-enabled products are already,
Soon, nanotech will be unavoidable. It will cut across vast sectors of industry, from computing to defense to mechanical engineering of consumer products. All these business sectors will need communication about safety protocols, privacy concerns, public policy, regulation and lobbying, and the pros and cons of using nanotech. Public relations for the nano world will become huge — figuratively speaking.
It’s an interesting essay with some good points but Bowen is not very well informed about nanotechnology. For example, there’s this from her list of ethical and social issues,
Are some research projects, such as military projects, too dangerous to pursue?
In addition to safety, this also raises privacy concerns about tracking. Human trials of such drugs begin in about two years.
The ship has sailed with regard to military research. So, the question turns from “Should we be doing this?” to “Should we continue doing this? and, possibly, Can we get everyone (all countries) to agree to stop?”
And, there are already human trials of nanotechnology-enabled drug delivery and other biomedical applications. For example there’s this from a March 21, 2016 California Institute of Technology (CalTech) news release about nanoparticles for cancer therapy,
These nanoparticles are currently being tested in a number of phase-II clinical trials. (Information about trials of the nanoparticles, denoted CRLX101, is available at http://www.
For anyone unfamiliar with the phases for clinical trials, there’s this from Patients at Heart website on the Clinical Trials Essentials webpage in the section on Research Phases,
Target Patient Population Average Number of Patients Phase I Healthy patients 20 to 80 participants Phase II First evaluation in patients with the target disease 100 to 300 participants Phase III Patients with the target disease 300 to 3,000 participants Health Canada approval for use in the general population Phase IV Patients with the target disease Variable – large numbers
Getting back to the essay, as Bowen notes there is a field designated as nanoethics. I found this Nanoethics Group based at California Polytechnic State University and this NanoEthics journal. I’m sure there’s much more out there should you care to search.