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In recent years nanotechnology has delivered major advances in healthcare and our growing knowledge of events at the molecular level is helping shape the medical advances of the future. The market for these products is international and the UK needs to develop global partnerships to ensure the healthcare technologies being produced reach their full commercial potential.
Following a successful mission to BioPharm America in Boston Massachusetts in September 2010, the next obvious international partner in nanomedicine was Switzerland. Both the UK and Switzerland have significant expertise in the application of nanotechnology to the challenges healthcare providers face and Switzerland is a major pharmaceutical hub with significant activity in nanotech and nanomedicine research.
August 2nd, 2011
Nanotechnology in Healthcare
Nanomedicine is a multidisciplinary field, requiring input from physicists, chemists and biologists, and as a result, companies and academic institutions need to find collaborators with whom new ideas can be formed and difficult challenges can be solved. It was to support the creation of such collaborations that the UK's Technology Strategy Board funded the NanoKTN to run this NanoMedicine Mission to Switzerland, which also had financial and physical support from the HealthTech and Medicines KTN, the FCO Science and Innovation Network in Berne and the Embassy of Switzerland in London.
The key objective of the mission was to forge profitable commercial business relationships which would provide UK companies with a range of benefits including new opportunities to network and win new business, share best practice and ideas, have access to investors and information for new start-ups including funding opportunities - providing new businesses early exposure to showcase and promote their technologies.
Switzerland has 12 research universities as well as a number of universities and public research institutes. As one of the world's leading industrial nations, it recognised the importance and commercial potential of nanotechnology early on. For a long time, Swiss scientists and engineers were and are pioneers in the miniaturisation of processes and structures.
In Switzerland, research excellence in life sciences is coupled with a fertile R&D environment supported by the country's pharma and biotech sectors. The global pharma companies - Actelion, MerckSerono, Novartis and Roche are complemented by around 230 biotech companies which generate an impressive revenue stream of about £7 billion last year and continue to attract significant venture capital investment (over £2.3 billion in the last decade). A large range of therapeutic and diagnostic companies as well as CROs, spanning the entire value chain from university spin-out to global pharma, provide a wealth of opportunities for collaboration and business in nanomedicine.
Switzerland is also a hub of medtech activity with around 1,400 companies active in this sector, accounting for about 2% of Swiss GDP and 5% of Swiss exports. The diversity of the sector is reflected in the diversity of its products. There are about 10,000 different product families, with implants leading the way in the fields of orthopaedics, traumatology and dentistry.
The NanoKTN's NanoMed Mission visited the centres of research excellence in Geneva/Lausanne, Basel and Zurich in Switzerland. The mission provided an opportunity to explore the nanomedicine strengths in Switzerland, network with Swiss counterparts and gain exposure to the Swiss nanomedicine market. The mission was led by Prof. Lord Alec Broers, previous chair of the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee and a well-known figure in nanotechnology.
The UK delegation comprised of the UK's largest pharma company GSK, plus Applied Nanodetectors, Aseptika, Izon Science Ltd, Pharmidex, QuantuMDx and Swiss Precision Diagnostics, as well as a number of academics representing the Bristol Heart Institute, London Centre for Nanotechnology, the Centre for NanoHealth at Swansea, and the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield.
Delegates met with a number of leading pharmaceutical and healthcare businesses to identify partnering and collaboration opportunities for the UK including Merck Serono, the Nestle Institute for Health Sciences (NIHS), Roche, IBM — ETH Zürich Nanotechnology Center, the Micro-NanoScience Platform of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Art of Technology AG, CSEM, InSphero Nanograde, SuSoS AG, Virometix and NANOTION.
Organisations highlighted a number of opportunities to UK businesses in oncology, neurodegenerative diseases, fertility and endocrinology, diabetes, intracellular and blood brain barrier targeting, chemical biology, stem cell(s) and related technologies, cardiovascular disorders, neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and ageing.
The mission had a stand at the 4th European-Conference for Clinical Nanomedicine (CLINAM 2011), held in Basel, and attended the final day. The conference covered numerous technologies where nanotechnology impacts medicine, including molecular and cellular basis of inflammation, humoral and cellular immunity as targets for nanomedicine, nanostructured vaccines and nanoscale mechanisms and targets for nanomedicine in viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. Presentations looked at the in vitro diagnosis of inflammation, point of care diagnosis, molecular imaging and targeted therapy.
The UK companies attended a number of different sessions at the conference including, Why We Are Not the Slaves of Our Genes: a Novel Aspect of Nanobiology and Anticipation of the Future Needs regarding Nanomedicine. The sessions took views from clinicians and companies, and examined the development of the nanomedicine regulatory environment in parallel to the science. It explored the uncertainties, both in fundamental and clinical research of nanotechnology, and the applicability and relevance of current technical regulatory requirements.
The NanoMed Mission attracted a large amount of interest from UK companies and academics, which was matched on the Swiss side, resulting in a packed schedule for the group as they travelled across Switzerland. There were over 40 individual meetings held during the visit and it looks likely that some of these will result in collaborative deals and projects.
The mission was very successful but the development of commercial interactions can take time. The NanoKTN is positive that these will come to fruition as a result of the visit and the meetings held. These Interactions will be monitored over the next year to ensure the true value of the mission is captured and to keep the momentum of interactions between the two countries in this important field of medicine.
Dr Mike Fisher, Theme Manager for Healthcare & Life Sciences at the NanoKTN comments, "The NanoKTN's primary aim is to encourage and support UK organisations to collaborate and share knowledge with key partners in attractive end user markets to achieve growth of the UK micro and nanotechnology sector. We are delighted with the results from our first NanoMedicine Mission to Switzerland and look forward to seeing how the potentials for collaboration with Swiss companies and research institutions develop."
A full copy of the mission report is free to all NanoKTN members and can be found on the NanoKTN website at www.nanoktn.com or requested by emailing .