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Back To Vidyya Nanoscience And Nanotechnology: Shaping Biomedical Research

Exciting Conference To Be Held 25-26 June 2000

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Bioengineering Consortium (BECON) will convene a symposium on "Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: Shaping Biomedical Research" on June 25-26, 2000, at the Natcher Conference Center on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

Periodically, a new field of science and technology emerges that is not merely evolutionary, but promises revolution in many aspects of our lives. Nanotechnology is emerging as a new field that has the potential to transform health care and medicine, biotechnology, manufacturing, energy, and information processing. The essence of nanotechnology is the creation and utilization of materials and devices at the level of atoms and molecules and the exploitation of unique properties and phenomena at the nanoscale.

The NIH BECON symposium is aimed at achieving a better understanding, particularly for biologists, of this exciting field, communicating new developments, identifying possible applications relevant to biology and medicine, and exploring future research possibilities to ensure that the NIH is poised to facilitate biomedical research incorporating nanotechnology concepts and tools.

Program Format and Outcomes

The symposium will provide unique opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange through plenary talks, posters, exhibits, and breakout group discussions. Ample time for discussion among the participants will offer biomedical scientists, clinicians, and nano scientists from the physics, chemistry, computational, mathematics, and engineering communities the opportunity to explore new collaborations that may shape the next generation of clinical therapeutics, diagnostics, and research tools.

General topics to be covered during the symposium include:

  • synthesis of biomimetically-derived and bioactive nanostructures for applications in therapeutics and diagnostics;
  • devices for early detection of disease and for single cell and molecule measurements;
  • electronic/biology interfaces;
  • biological nanostructures; and
  • nanotechnology in tissue repair.

These topics are indicative of the scope of nanotechnology and its potential applications. As planning for the symposium continues and the scientific discussions begin, additional areas of relevance will undoubtedly surface. These conversations, and the recommendations that will emerge from the symposium, will help to guide the NIH in creating new initiatives in this exciting and important new area of research.

What is Nanotechnology?

Steven M. Block, Ph.D.

An inevitable outgrowth of modern technology has been an increasing trend towards the miniaturization of components. In parallel with this, scientific developments have led to the increased study of material properties at the mesoscopic level or below. In areas as diverse as materials engineering, quantum physics, and molecular biology, new tools and approaches have been developed that enable both the fabrication and the study of molecular complexes or even single macromolecules. We therefore find ourselves at the dawn of an era where the forefronts of both engineering and scientific endeavor have reached the length scale of nanometers. This serves to define not only a new 'nanotechnology,' but equally a new 'nanoscience,' and the distinction between these terms is worth noting. Against the backdrop of much exciting technical and scientific development, there are legitimate expectations for breakthroughs in areas such as computing/electronics, biotechnology, materials, and so on. In many cases, these expectations seem realistic and appropriate, and therefore merit the attention and support of government agencies, academia, and the private sector. In others cases, the expectations seem na´ve and unrealistic: these are primarily being advanced by a vocal cult of futurists whose enthusiasm is beyond question, but whose agenda is not. I will argue that for the real science to proceed, nanotechnologists ought to distance themselves from the giggle factor and position themselves for the serious work of the 21st century.

For more information, visit the symposium's Web site at

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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