Nanotechnology is redefining fields like imaging, diagnosis, drug delivery, regenerative medicine and biomaterials as well as underpinning the development of new generations of medical products. Many of these advances will offer vastly improved outcomes for patients, therapies for hitherto difficult-to-treat diseases or conditions, improved manufacturing efficiency, or better use of valuable medical professional resources. The technology has already found its way into applications in healthcare including diagnostic imaging agents, drug delivery systems, body sensors, displays, high performance X-ray tubes, tissue engineering, microfluidics, lab on a chip, pathogen detection systems and compact electronic systems.
What makes nanotechnology so important is its ability to help researchers and scientists understand many diseases on molecular and cellular level, leading to new insights in diagnostics and therapy. This unique capability is invigorating the demand for nanotechnology in medicine to help solve many of today’s challenges in healthcare.
To accelerate the growth of nanotechnology and to better understand diseases many programmes have been initiated in recent years by Governments as well as corporations. Some of the key players in the field include the European Union (the biggest public investor in nanotechnology research) and the US Government from the public sector, and Philips Healthcare, Siemens Medical Solutions, GE Healthcare, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline from the private sector.
The US National Cancer Institute’s cancer nanotechnology plan aims ‘to create the tools that both clinicians and cancer researchers need now to eliminate suffering and death from cancer by 2015. However, in order to harness the full potential of nanomedicine, it is very important to prioritise the areas in which we focus our research resources. Clinicians and patients should clearly understand what applications are currently available to them as well as what this rapidly evolving technology can deliver in the future.
Prof. Shervanthi Homer-Vanniasinkam, Consultant Vascular Surgeon at Leeds Medical School and Clinical Sub-Dean at the University of Bradford, who is also the chair of NanoMedNet underlines the importance of clinician-researcher-industry interaction in this innovative new field for the better utilisation of resources
"The clinical community is both excited by the promise of what this technology can deliver in terms of patient care and wary of some of the potential dangers of embracing this new field. Thus, it is important for clinicians, scientists and industry to develop a scientifically and socially conscious platform from which to foster the development of nanomedicine within clearly defined and ethically responsible boundaries. We should jointly strive to achieve this goal so that the promise that nanomedicine holds for improved healthcare is realised"
The vision of NanoMedNet is to be the leader in both the UK and Europe in the provision of up-to-date nanomedicine information, to provide a platform for education and training in nanomedicine for medical professionals, and to act as an interface between industry and medical professionals in accelerating medical nanotechnology growth.
The mission of the NanoMedNet network is to
- provide up-to-date information to its members on all aspects of the emerging field of nanomedicine;
- develop further services and tools to increase the awareness of, and develop the education and training of, medical professionals and related medical and scientific disciplines in the field of nanomedicine;
- to accelerate medical nanotechnology transfer and the commercialisation of novel ideas through an extensive clinician-industry interface.