Emory Report
December 10, 2007
Volume 60, Number 14

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December 10, 2007
Nanotechnology presents obstacles, opportunities

By Quinn Eastman

The next decade’s opportunities to apply nanotechnology in detecting and treating cancer resemble “a giant candy store,” chemistry professor Dennis Liotta told participants in a Dec. 4 workshop. Liotta’s work with pediatrics professor Ray Schinazi has produced anti-HIV drugs taken by millions to stave off AIDS and sparked the creation of several start-up companies.

But scientists hoping to follow in Liotta’s footsteps face a long road ahead. Challenges include obtaining patents, recruiting capable management and securing funding to last through the “marathon” of clinical trials, he said.

The Emory-Georgia Tech Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence’s workshop was the CCNE’s first on the topic of turning medical inventions into viable products.

Nanotechnology refers to microscopic objects larger than conventional drugs that scientists think could be used to target tumors more specifically than harsh chemotherapy agents. However, because the properties of such “nanomaterials” within the body are poorly understood, they may have to jump more regulatory hurdles.
“Today, students and investigators can learn what are the obstacles, what are the procedures for commercialization,” said Emory-Georgia Tech CCNE co-director Shuming Nie.

The workshop’s panel of industry experts agreed that nanotechnology will find its way into commercial use first in laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging, and then possibly as a way to deliver existing drugs more effectively.