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Advances in use of nanotechnology for biomedical applications was the central theme of the symposium and highlighted the diverse areas being currently investigated across various R&D labs in India. Significant discoveries are being made in labs all across the country ready for commercial exploitation. The symposium left the audience with a sense of awe at the possibilities awaiting us as a generation and students motivated to be part of this revolution
October 10th, 2007
Integrated Nano-Bio systems symposium at BMS College, Bangalore
Recently, I delivered an invited lecture at a national symposium organized by BMS College in Bangalore. I have written earlier in these columns on the potential of Bangalore as the hot bed of technology, including nanotechnology, in the South East Asia region. My belief was further reinforced seeing a number of students and senior academics and entrepreneurs attending this symposium. The future of nano-biotechnology is here to stay in Bangalore, India.
The symposium itself covered a number of interesting topics ranging from biomedical devices, CNT based sensors, microbial enzymes and their applications to nanotechnology from the oceans! Prof. R. Ravi from Indian Institute of Technology delivered the plenary lecture on the development of artificial limb implants and described the long journey involved in generating resources, building the team and getting clinical trials done. His work demonstrated the interdisciplinary nature of R&D, particularly involving nanotechnologies. Prof. Ravi's research group has successfully developed indigenous technologies for various joint transplants and is currently undertaking research on visualization of bone tissues to help surgeons align the implant during operation.
Dr. Prashant Mishra from the same institute gave a thought provoking presentation on various applications based on microbial enzymes and the science behind them. His work focuses on use of proteins as building blocks and using them as templates for bottoms up synthesis of nanostructured devices. One of his successful projects has been synthesis of nano magnetite from bacterial cultures. Sustained and targeted drug delivery using the principle of slow release of proteins across a polymeric membrane is an ongoing area of research in his lab. He has worked on developing membranes for drug delivery and is now investigating molecular interactions of drugs on these surfaces. His work emphasized the parity of Indian scientific work with their western counterpart. My interaction with him focused on the lack of commercialization of technologies developed in Indian R&D institutions and the progress achieved in this area in the last few years. Various R&D institutes are now setting up business incubation centers in their campus to allow the students working on these technologies an opportunity to build companies based on the technologies developed in the lab. Mentoring is provided both by faculties and business partners. There have been a couple of success stories too, but mostly in the ITES sector. Without doubt, a slow transformation is taking place in Indian R&D centers and scientist are starting to think about filing patents before publishing results in open literature.
Presentation from National Institute of Oceanography highlighted the steps that the institute has taken in learning nanotechnology from under the oceans. Given the biodiversity under the water the task is humungous, and very important and interesting discoveries are being made. One such problem successfully addressed by the institute is that of biofouling of marine structures. Surfaces immersed in aquatic environment absorb dissolved organic matter, thereby conditioning them. Conditioned surfaces are then colonized by microorganisms forming a slimy layer inducing the settlement of macroscopic organisms like barnacle, oyster and mussel etc. Biofouling increases frictional flow resistance, impairs heat transfer capacity of heat conductors, and enhance electrochemical corrosion of metals and alloys. Billions of dollars are spent globally to control biofouling and corrosion. The institute has isolated and screened a number of plant and animal extracts for their potential to control fouling and corrosion. An antifouling compound, b-carbonil, was synthesized in laboratory and field tested for its performance. Such organic fouling inhibitors coatings have been found to be effective and environment friendly way to address the problem. Pilot scale trials are being undertaken in conjunction with some Indian vessels in high seas. Similar work with gas hydrates is focused on exploring the use of naturally occurring solids as fuel cells. Projects are underway on screening of marine organisms for industrially useful compounds and processes for applications in food, medicine, waste treatment and cosmetics.
For a material scientist, with a firm background in solid state physics all this information was overwhelming and I left the symposium with the thought "Is the era of Newton-Einstein physics going to be overtaken by the century of biology and biotechnology"? Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society recently conducted a survey of general public on potential benefits of nanotechnology. The participants were most excited about the benefits of nanotechnology in cancer treatment, drug delivery and other medical applications while potential of miniaturization, exciting new materials with enhanced mechanical, optical, electrical properties found few takers. Food for thought for nanoscientists, eh!
Please send your feedback, ideas, and suggestions to Vivek Srivastava at .
Vivek hold a Ph. D. in materials science and has published over a dozen papers in international journals and contributed to international conferences and seminars. He has interests in commercialization of nanotechnology & new ventures with innovative business models to exploit the advantages India offers. He consults existing businesses to grow and expand in new technology areas, and serves as mentor to budding entrepreneurs. His current research interest are "severe plastic deformation methods for production of bulk nanomaterials" and "Role of industry dynamics on making R&D funding decisions".