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Wednesday AM February 10th, 2010

A Houston conference brings experts together for a combined engineering and medical approach to nanotechnology. Ed Mayberry reports.


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This week’s First Global Congress on NanoEngineering for Medicine and Biology is an attempt to unite two disciplines.  Alliance for NanoHealth President and chairman of the Department of NanoMedicine and Biomedical Engineering at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Dr. Mauro Ferrari says it’s essential that medical professionals collaborate with engineers.

“This is the first world conference that brings together engineers and doctors.  So this is a cooperation of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Alliance for NanoHealth, which is a consortium here in the City of Houston that links eight institutions with the objective of bringing nanotechnology to the clinic.  To conquer the frontiers of medicine the way they are in front of us right now, engineering is a fundamental resource.”

Big Pharma’s business model is based on producing large quantities of a few drugs, but that business model may have to change.  There’s a trend to customizing the drug therapy to the individual, and that requires customizing the mechanical carriers of drugs.

“You cannot find two identical cancers.  Cancers are like malignant snowflakes.  You cannot find two of them that are alike.  We are not going to conquer cancer unless we are able to personalize.  The drugs that we use are not that important.  Killing the cancer cell is easy.  What is difficult is making sure that whatever agent you are using goes to the right place.  So what nanotechnology allows you to do is to personalize the carrier that brings the drug inside.”

Formulations of drugs made from nano-particles can overcome biological barriers and concentrate on localized cancers.  The four-day conference continues through tomorrow at the JW Marriott Hotel in the Galleria.

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