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BioMEMS - The business case for going small.

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Assignment for the BioMEMS - The business case for going small

The assignment should contain the following parts:

(i) Description of the present situation, with clear representation of all economic and technical variables, as well as their values for the base scenario.

(ii) Proposed new scenario, with clear statement as to what are the aims, e.g. decrease the analysis time, decrease the cost, etc.

(iii) Technical description of the new methodology, e.g. microarray, microplates, etc.

(iv) Comparison of the two scenarios; for advanced forecasters (i.e. you) one could consider a sensitivity study, e.g., more than one "dimension" - macro (present); micro (near future); nano (?).

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Nano-technology and Nano-medicine

Description of the present situation "There is a growing sense in the scientific and technical community that we are about to enter a golden new era," announced Richard E. Smalley, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, in recent Congressional testimony. On June 22, 1999, Smalley spoke in support of a new National Nanotechnology Initiative before the Subcommittee on Basic Research of the U.S. House Science Committee in Washington, DC. "We are about to be able to build things that work on the smallest possible length scales, atom by atom," Smalley said. "Over the past century we have learned about the workings of biological nano-machines to an incredible level of detail, and the benefits of this knowledge are beginning to be felt in medicine. In coming decades we will learn to modify and adapt this machinery to extend the quality and length of life." Smalley founded the Center for Nano-scale Science and Technology at Rice University in Texas in 1996. But he became personally interested in the medical applications of nanotechnology in 1999, after he was diagnosed with a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (the same sort that killed King Hussein of Jordan). Smalley then endured an apparently successful course of chemotherapy that caused all the hair on his head to fall out.

"Twenty years ago," Smalley continued, "without even this crude chemotherapy I would already be dead. But twenty years from now, I am confident we will no longer have to use this blunt tool. By then, nanotechnology will have given us specially engineered drugs which are nano-scale cancer-seeking missiles, a molecular technology that specifically targets just the mutant cancer cells in the human body, and leaves everything else blissfully alone. To do this, these drug molecules will have to be big enough - thousands of atoms - so that we can code the information into them of where they should go and what they should kill. They will be examples of an exquisite, human-made nanotechnology of the future. I may not live to see it. But, with your help, I am confident it will happen. Cancer - at least the type that I have - will be a thing of the past."

The term "nanotechnology" generally refers to engineering and manufacturing at the molecular or nanometer length scale. (A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, about the width of 6 bonded carbon atoms.) The field is experiencing an explosion of interest. Nanotechnology is so promising that the U.S. President, in his January 2000 State-of-the-Union speech, announced that he would seek $475 million for nanotechnology R&D via the National Nanotechnology Initiative, effectively doubling federal nanotech funding for FY2001. The President never referred to "nanotechnology" by name, but he gushed about its capabilities, marveling at a technology that will someday produce "molecular computers the size of a tear drop with the power of today's fastest supercomputers."

After the President's speech, Walter Finkelstein, president and CEO of NanoFab Inc. in Columbia, MD, agreed that it was conceivable that the technology could be used to develop computers chips so small that they could be injected into the bloodstream - "Fantastic Voyage-like," he said - to locate medical problems. In February 2000, John Hopcroft, dean of the College of Engineering at Cornell University, announced plans for a new 150,000-square-foot nanotechnology research center. The facility already has $12 million per year of earmarked funding and is expected to support 90 local jobs and approximately 110 graduate students. "The implications of this research are enormous," Hopcroft asserted, and include "the development of mechanical devices that can fight disease within the human body. **When you add certain statistics and equations to your paper it shows the instructor that you have had to do some digging to find this kind of information. Genuinely it impresses the reader because they feel like they have gained some knowledge just by the numbers you have presented in front of them. **

Proposed new scenario In May 2000, the National Cancer Institute signed an agreement with NASA, the U.S. space agency, to study the medical potential of nano-particles. Nano-science has also attracted the attention of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which hosted one of the first nanotechnology and biomedicine conferences in June 2000. In July, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a Nanoscale Science and Engineering Initiative to provide an estimated $74 million in funding for nanotechnology research. Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois will spend $30 million on a new nanofabrication facility of its own, joining existing operations such as the Stanford Nanofabrication Facility (started in 1985 with $15 million of backing from 20 industrial sponsors) and the Cornell Nanofabrication Facility, expected to attract 450 researchers in 2000, half of them visiting scientists. Cornell is spending $50 million on a new building for the Facility, and has just won a $20 million, five-year grant from the NSF to operate a new nano-biotechnology center which will make nano-scale tools available to biologists.

Burgeoning interest in the medical applications of nanotechnology has led to the emergence of a new field called nano-medicine. Most broadly, nano-medicine is the process of diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease and traumatic injury, of relieving pain, and of preserving and improving human health, using molecular tools and molecular knowledge of the human body. It is most useful to regard the emerging field of nano-medicine as a set of three mutually overlapping and progressively more powerful technologies. First, in the relatively near term, nano-medicine can address many important medical problems by using nano-scale-structured materials that can be manufactured today. This includes the interaction of nano-structured materials with biological systems - in June 2000, the first 12 Ph.D. candidates in "nano-biotechnology" began laboratory work at Cornell University. Second, over the next 5-10 years, biotechnology will make possible even more remarkable advances in molecular medicine and biobotics (microbiological robots), some of which are already on the drawing boards. Third, in the longer term, perhaps 10-20 years from today, the earliest molecular machine systems and nanorobots may join the medical armamentarium, finally giving physicians the most potent tools imaginable to conquer human disease, ill-health, and suffering.

Medical Nano-materials

The initial medical applications of nanotechnology, using nano-structured materials, are already being tested in a wide variety of potential diagnostic and therapeutic areas.

Tagged Nano-particles

For example, fluorescent tags are commonplace in medicine and biology, found in everything from HIV tests to experiments that image the inner functions of cells. But different dye molecules must be used for each color, color-matched lasers are needed to get each dye to fluoresce, and dye colors tend to bleed together and fade quickly after one use. "Quantum dot" nano-crystals have none of these shortcomings. These dots are tiny particles measuring only a few nanometers across, about the same size as a protein molecule or a short sequence of DNA. They come in a nearly unlimited palette of sharply-defined colors, can be excited to fluorescence with white light, and can be linked to bio-molecules to form long-lived sensitive probes to identify specific compounds. They can track biological events by simultaneously tagging each biological component (e.g., different proteins or DNA sequences) with nano-dots of a specific color.

Quantum Dot, the manufacturer, believes this kind of flexibility could offer a cheap and easy way to screen a blood sample for the presence of a number of different viruses at the same time. It could also give physicians a fast diagnostic tool to detect, say, the presence of a particular set of proteins that strongly indicates a person is having a heart attack. On the research front, the ability to simultaneously tag multiple bio-molecules both on and inside cells could allow scientists to watch the complex cellular changes and events associated with disease, providing valuable clues for the development of future pharmaceuticals and therapeutics. In mid-2000, Genentech began evaluating the dots for commercial utility in a variety of cellular and molecular assays. A related technology called PEBBLES (Probes Encapsulated by Biologically Localized Embedding), pioneered by Raoul Kopelman at the University of Michigan, allows dye-tagged nano-particles to be inserted into living cells to monitor metabolism or disease conditions.

Artificial Molecular Receptors

Another early goal of nano-medicine is to study how biological molecular receptors work, and then to build artificial binding sites on a made-to-order basis to achieve specific medical results. Buddy D. Ratner at the University of Washington in Seattle has researched the engineering of polymer surfaces containing arrays of artificial receptors. In a recent series of experiments, Ratner and his colleagues used a new radiofrequency-plasma glow-discharge process to imprint a polysaccharide-like film with nanometer-sized pits in the shape of such biologically useful protein molecules as albumin (the most common blood protein), fibrinogen (a clotting protein), lysozyme and ribonuclease (two important enzymes), and immunoglobulin (antibodies). Each protein type sticks only to a pit with the shape of that protein. Ratner's engineered surfaces may be used for quick biochemical separations and assays, and in biosensors and chemosensors, because such surfaces will selectively adsorb from solution only the specific protein whose complementary shape has been imprinted, and only at the specific place on the surface where the shape is imprinted. The RESIST Group at the Welsh School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University ] and others have looked at how molecularly imprinted polymers could be medically useful in clinical applications such as controlled drug release, drug monitoring devices, and biological and antibody receptor mimics.


Dendrimers represent yet another nano-structured material that may soon find its way into medical therapeutics. Starburst dendrimers are tree-shaped synthetic molecules with a regular branching structure emanating outward from a core. Dendrimers form nanometer by nanometer, so the number of synthetic steps or "generations" dictates the exact size of the particles in a batch. Each molecule is typically a few nanometers wide but some have been constructed up to 30 nanometers wide, incorporating more than 100,000 atoms. The peripheral layer of the dendrimer particle can be made to form a dense field of molecular groups that serve as hooks for attaching other useful molecules, such as DNA, which hunker down amongst the outermost branches.

In 1998, James R. Baker Jr. co-founded the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology at the University of Michigan to bring together doctors, medical researchers, chemists and ...

Solution Summary

Description of the present situation, Proposed new scenario, Technical description of the new methodology and comparison of the two scenarios. MS Word documents contains -
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74 Paragraphs
11 References