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
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
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
- synthesis of biomimetically-derived and bioactive
nanostructures for applications in therapeutics and
- 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 www.masimax.com