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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > NanotecNexus > "Getting to the Core of the Matter - Why NanoBioNexus Was Born"

Adriana Vela
Founder & Chair

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August 30th, 2007

"Getting to the Core of the Matter - Why NanoBioNexus Was Born"

What would compel a seasoned professional in the high tech industry to venture into the convergent area of nanotechnology and biotechnology and have to start all over again? When I've been asked this question, my natural impulse is to answer purely from a business perspective - "To fill an unmet need." When I ask myself this same question, my natural response is to ask another question - "What on earth was I thinking?" Despite the challenges of launching a not-for-profit corporation in this convergent space (and the jokes about my sanity) the rationale has always been clear to me: new technologies change the world for ordinary people. Nanotechnology is one of them.

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of atoms and molecules in the 1-100 nanometer scale yielding different properties and functions than the same materials at traditional scales. By comparison, a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers wide. Therefore the potential for such technologies is profound. When applied to life sciences (e.g. medicine, diagnostics, therapeutics, and medical devices), it is naturally referred to as nanobiotechnology.

Although I don't come from a scientific background the advances in science began to capture my imagination. The pivotal point was the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 - a 13 year effort completed two years ahead of schedule due to technological advances. We know that genetics play an important role in diagnosing, monitoring and treatment of diseases. The impact of this project coupled with the use of technology led me directly to the desire to learn and understand the world of the very small, nanotechnology.

Enter NanoBioNexus
When I began to seek information about nanotechnology and biotechnology it became clear to me that not only was there little information available for the lay person but also that existing organizations were not covering this emerging industry.

In 2004 I founded NanoBioNexus whose mission is very simply about two things: 1) education for industry and the general public, and 2) commercialization of novel technologies that will help in the development of more accurate diagnostic tools, better drugs for diseases, and improved devices.

In support of its mission, NanoBioNexus provides educational programs without the hype, has a career center, a membership program, webcasts and other rich content. The programs are well respected featuring top level nanotech-focused CEOs as well as senior researchers. Opportunities to learn, exchange ideas, and network with other nano-interested professionals at each event has made the programs very successful to date.

These programs have been so successful, that NanoBioNexus recently celebrated its third anniversary with a special event entitled NanoBio Appreciation Gala - ‘Reach for the Stars'. Open to everyone, the event was scheduled for Wednesday July 11th, 2007 at the beautiful SALK Institute in La Jolla, California. Attendees enjoyed a wonderful evening, met industry thought-leaders and had the opportunity to hear about some revolutionary projects and surgical approaches in cancer using nanotechnology. As an added bonus, I had the honor of reading a special salute and greetings sent by US Senator Diane Feinstein who recognized the tireless efforts in the field of cancer research and the leadership that NanoBioNexus has demonstrated in Nanobiotech education.

What's the big deal about the very small?
With billions of dollars invested worldwide every year in nanotech R&D - an amount that already far exceeds the investment in the space race of the 1960's - and the human genome project of the 1990's, it is worth taking a closer look. The biggest nanotech disruption is expected to be seen in medicine and healthcare applications. In particular, applications that address diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, ophthalmic diseases and many others are the focus of many nanotech funded projects.

For example, cancer is likely to reach pandemic proportions as the baby-boomer population ages. The risk of cancer increases with age and currently 71% of all cancer deaths are in persons 65 years and older. By 2030, 20% of the population will be over 65, which means that one in American in five is expected to have cancer. The socio-economical burden on the US will be significant.

Nanotechnology has the potential to address this which is the reason for the millions of funding dollars being provided by the National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology programs. To date, the NCI has funded eight Centers for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE's) ( ).

Challenges Ahead
Perhaps one way to appreciate nanotechnology is to think about the internet and how it has changed every aspect of our lives. For many of us it is hard to imagine life without it. Nanotechnology is no different in this respect and yet--according to studies from the Woodrow Wilson Institute of Scholars' Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies ( )--the vast majority of society has absolutely no notion about how nanotechnology will affect their lives. The disservice that sensationalist media and some authors have done to this area of science without truly understanding or conveying a balanced perspective is also unfortunate. For everyone's benefit, NanoBioNexus is committed to adding balance to this subject.

NanoBioNexus forum on drug delivery.

NanoBioNexus, therefore, performs a vital service to both the nanotech research community as well as to the general public by bridging the gap between these two worlds. The educational programs and other outreach activities from NanoBioNexus are intended specifically to accomplish this task. This column will continue to be a means to share updates and information about the progress and activities in the nanobiotech arena.

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