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December 17th, 2007

Nanotechnology medicine: will it be affordable?

Some of the nanomaterial-based drug delivery advances sound like significant improvements over what has come before, often by enabling better targeting of those nasty, toxic chemotherapy agents so they do less damage to healthy cells. If these new drugs are really a lot better — if they really work, as opposed to so many cancer treatments — we may want to find a way to speed up the process by which these innovations (often based on publicly-funded research) can reach those who are less well-off.

Patents are a big issue here. There's increasing debate over whether the current system is the best we can come up with. It's time to examine our experiences, in the U.S., with the Bayh-Dole Act and see if some tweaks might be needed. Meanwhile, the Peer-to-Patent Project is worth our support. It would be good to get this worked out now, when the advances are still relatively minor. Advanced molecular nanosystems should make really big medical innovations possible. —Christine


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