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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > NanotechnologyKTN > ‘Nano4Life 2012: Converging Nanotechnology with the Life Science Industry' post-event report

Fiona Brewer

Earlier this year, the Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network (NanoKTN), hosted its fourth Nano4Life conference. This popular event brought together leading industry professionals with academia, end-users and investors to explore the convergence of nanotechnology and healthcare. The one-day annual conference, a flagship event for the NanoKTN's Healthcare & Life Sciences theme, brings together the four focus groups: NanoPharm, NanoMed, NanoRegen and NiMeD.

June 25th, 2012

‘Nano4Life 2012: Converging Nanotechnology with the Life Science Industry' post-event report

The conference was hosted by Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst with a networking reception sponsored by Eversheds.

Over the past decade there has been significant interest in the promise that nanotechnology holds for international life sciences and more specifically, healthcare. The current interest in nanotechnology is driven by the many advances that the area of nanoscience promises. Nano4Life 2012 highlighted new innovations and stimulated discussion around where nanotechnology can help improve healthcare provision, bringing together the UK supply chain to interact and examine the convergence of nanotechnology and healthcare and discuss current developments and capabilities.

Nanotechnology: Driving the Future of Organ Development
Prof Alex Seifalien, University College London & Dr Mohammad Alavijeh, Managing Director, Pharmidex

Application of nanotechnology, nanocomposite materials and stem cells are a new generation of tools in the development of human organs. Their research and development is based on a multidisciplinary team approach from basic science to the clinical and from academia to industry .

Pharmidex has setup a consortium working to develop nerve regeneration and cardiovascular intervention devices. The family of nanomaterials and nanocomposite materials used for this have already been used in the first synthetic trachea transplanted in a patient. The presentation highlighted the application of nanotechnology in regenerative medicine and how industry is working closely with academia to achieve this.

Nanotechnology in Healthcare - a Regulator's Perspective
Dr Neil Ebenezer, Head of New and Emerging Technologies, Medical & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

Dr Ebenezer provided an overview of the European Medical Device Directives and how the directives have been implemented in the UK including the introduction of harmonised standards as well as conformity assessment and the role of Notified Bodies. The presentation also looked at post marketing surveillance and vigilance issues that may apply to products that utilise nanotechnology.

"Nano-tech and Nano-deals" - Biopharma Partnering Needs
Dr Enda Gribbon, Atelix Ltd

Disease-specific nanotechnologies for tomorrow continue to advance, despite restricted access to finance and the impacts of other macro-economic factors faced by today's healthcare providers. This interactive presentation drew on the views and experiences of the audience in shaping the critical success factors for commercial partnering as the on-going investments establish clinical proof-of-concept and technology validation.

Large Format Arrays for Droplet Microfluidics
Ben Hadwen, Sharp Laboratories of Europe Ltd

Droplet microfluidics is rapidly emerging as a powerful and versatile tool for a number of life science applications. Sharp Laboratories of Europe have developed a new device concept for droplet microfluidics based on Electro-wetting on dielectric (EWOD). Its technology uses the thin film transistor (TFT) technology employed in liquid crystal displays to realise large format, fully reconfigurable EWOD arrays for the arbitrary manipulation of multiple droplets all simultaneously. Sharp anticipates this new technology being a platform for many life science and diagnostic applications such as point of care blood testing diagnostics, infection detection and as a tool for laboratory based research scientists.

What Makes a Fundable Company
Dr Deborah Harland, Partner, SR One

Given the on-going malaise towards early stage life science investing by Limited Partners of traditional funds, corporate venturing increasingly represents an important source of capital for life science start-up companies. SR One, the independent corporate venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline has a long history of successful investing in early stage life science companies and has a clear view on what makes a start-up company fundable. Dr Harland reviewed these key elements of SR One's investment criteria using examples of recent investments the fund has made in the UK.

Development of Nanotechnologies against Neurodegenerative Disease
Prof Kostas Kostarelos, Chair of Nanomedicine & Head, Centre for Drug Delivery Research, School of Pharmacy, UCL

One of the key advantages that carbon nanotubes (CNT) offer for biomedical applications is their facile cellular internalisation that has allowed their proposition as novel delivery vehicles for molecules relevant to therapeutic and diagnostic applications. Prof. Kostarelos provided an overview of the latest developments in this area. Of particular interest was the demonstration that CNTs can deliver higher levels of siRNA into cells in comparison to standard delivery systems.

Electrospun Materials for Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering
Ann Kramer, CEO, The Electrospinning Company

Electrospun nanofibre scaffolds provide an ideal substrate for the growth and differentiation of human cells in 3D. They are biomimetic of the extracellular matrix environment and highly porous, allowing efficient exchange of nutrients, gases and waste products. They can be produced from different polymers according to the desired mechanical and chemical characteristics, including degradation over a defined period. Kramer provided an overview on how electrospun scaffolds are being used by many academic groups in tissue engineering applications for diverse tissues including bone, muscle, heart valves, trachea and stem cells as well as for in vitro assays.

This article gives only a snapshot of the developments in this area. Presentations can be found in full on the NanoKTN website ( ) and are available to members of the NanoKTN who have signed up to the Healthcare & Life Sciences group. Membership to the NanoKTN is free.

About NanoKTN
The NanoKTN was set up by the Technology Strategy Board to promote and facilitate knowledge exchange, support the growth of UK capabilities, raise nanotechnology awareness and provide thought-leadership and input to UK policy strategy. The NanoKTN facilitates the transfer of knowledge and experience between industry and research by offering companies dealing in small-scale technology access to information on new processes, patents and funding, as well as keeping up-to-date with industry regulation.

By hosting events and workshops, the NanoKTN offers a forum to its members where all parts of the supply chain can interact and forge partnerships and collaborations. These events support the exploitation and commercialisation of nanotechnology by informing and facilitating innovation and encouraging collaborations between suppliers and users through the development of focus groups. These focus groups work to identify the gaps in the supply chain as well as identifying the UK's potential in innovation. This information is reported back to the Technology Strategy Board and provides leverage for channelling government funds into specific areas of need.

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