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Home > Press > Halas, West Named Finalists For Nano Honor

Rice University scientists selected as runners up in Small Times magazine's Best of Small Tech Research Award competition. Halas and West were honored for groundbreaking research in the development of a novel new treatment for cancer that uses non-visible laser light and nanoparticles to kill tumors with heat. The non-invasive therapy uses novel particles called gold nanoshells. It involves no toxic drugs and doesn't harm healthy tissue.

Editor's Note: For additional details, read our 2003 Best Discoveries Award article on Halas and West.

Halas, West Named Finalists For Nano Honor

Engineers Recognized for Development of Nanoshell-based Cancer Therapy

Houston, TX – November 15, 2004

Rice University scientists Naomi Halas and Jennifer West have each been selected as runners up in Small Times magazine's Best of Small Tech Research Award competition. Small Times' Best Small Tech Awards recognize the best people, products and companies in nanotechnology, MEMS and microsystems.

Halas, the Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of chemistry, and West, the Isabel C. Cameron Professor of Bioengineering and professor of chemical engineering, were each honored for groundbreaking research in 2003-2004 toward the development of a novel new treatment for cancer that uses metallic nanoshells.

Dr. Naomi Halas
Dr. Naomi Halas
Dr. Jennifer West
Dr. Jennifer West

"When cancer tumors can be accurately detected and efficiently destroyed without invasive surgery and debilitating drugs, Naomi Halas and Jennifer West will be high on the list of people who made it possible," said Steve Crosby, Small Times Media President and Publisher. "Their work with nanoshells could change the medical field forever."

During the past year, Halas and West have published several important studies about the nanoshell-based cancer therapy, include the first results from live animal tests. While these early studies are laying the groundwork for tests in humans, no date has been set for the start of human clinical trials, and the university is not taking the names of prospective participants.

Invented by Halas in the 1990s, nanoshells are a unique class of multi-layered nanoscale particles that interact with light in novel and useful ways. In form, nanoshells resemble malted milk balls, but instead of chocolate, they are coated with gold, and their center is a tiny sphere of glass.

Nanoshells measure a scant 100 billionths of a meter in diameter, or 100 nanometers, which is about 20 times smaller than a red blood cell. By varying the relative size of the glass core and the thickness of the gold shell, Halas and her collaborators can "tune" nanoshells to respond to different wavelengths of light.

For biomedical applications, West and Halas use nanoshells that absorb near infrared light and convert it into heat. A region of the spectrum just beyond the visible range, near infrared light is optimal for medical imaging and treatment because it passes harmlessly through soft tissue.

Unlike drug-based cancer therapies, the nanoshell therapy relies on the basic physics of light. Nanoshells are injected into the patient and allowed to collect inside the leaky blood vessels inside a tumor. Then, a laser of near infrared light is shined through the patient's body and onto the tumor. The light heats the nanoshells enough to destroy the tumor but not enough to harm healthy tissues nearby.

The recipients of the Small Times Magazine Best of Small Tech Awards and runners-up were selected by nominations and applications submitted by companies and individuals. Small Times Media news staff and an industry panel of experts reviewed the applicants and selected one winner and four runners up in six categories, plus lifetime achievement. The panel considered accomplishments between September 1, 2003 and October 1, 2004. A complete list of winners and runners-up can be found in the November/December issue of Small Times’ magazine and online at

About Rice University:

Rice University is consistently ranked one of America's best teaching and research universities. It is distinguished by its: size-2,850 undergraduates and 1,950 graduate students; selectivity-10 applicants for each place in the freshman class; resources-an undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio of 6-to-1, and the fifth largest endowment per student among American universities; residential college system, which builds communities that are both close-knit and diverse; and collaborative culture, which crosses disciplines, integrates teaching and research, and intermingles undergraduate and graduate work. Rice's wooded campus is located in the nation's fourth largest city and on America's South Coast. For more information, visit

About Small Times Media:

Small Times Media LLC is the leading source of business news and information about nanotechnology, MEMS and microsystems. The company offers full news coverage through its magazine, Small Times®, daily news Web site,, a weekly e-newsletter, Small Times Direct™ and a paid news service, Small Tech Advantage. Small Times Media also offers custom research, based in part on the most accurate and comprehensive database in the industry. Small Times Media is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., USA.

Jade Boyd
Rice University

Kelli Felker
Small Times Media

Copyright © Rice University

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