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Archive for the ‘nanotechnology’ Category

Biochips to test toxicity of new drugs outside animal body

Posted by evolvingwheel on December 29, 2007

So a big pharma creates a drug molecule with the potential of becoming a blockbuster. $4 billion dollars have been spent in R&D and the drug-discovery life-cycle . The drug is now up for clinical trials and gets canned because of toxicity reported in animal and human treatments. The company tries to dilute the risk by spreading the failed investment into other drug development and profit margins. Future blockbuster drugs costs astronomically high!

Now consider that a new method of testing has been found that tests the toxicity of a drug-in-process way early in the discovery cycle. Guess how much investment can be saved by deflecting the risk of a flop show towards the end of the process. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., the University of California, Berkeley, and Solidus Biosciences, Inc. have developed a biochip technology that claims to reveal the potential toxicity of chemicals and drug candidates during early experiments. Read the article [here]. toxicity_on_a_chip.jpg

As in earlier cases, I am not going to talk about the technology behind it. You can read that in the article itself. I will rather try to analyze briefly the ecosystem dynamic around this innovation and what could be the potential lines of developments/creations in the industry.

  1. First thing, if this practice catches up, how will the clinical testing industry adjust with the new toxicity test way early in the cycle? How will those business components rehabilitate?
  2. We test drugs on animals earlier for toxicity and use that as a predicate for reactions on humans. Now that is often challenged. However, will the new chips really curtail the testing on animals? EU has already banned several testing on animals considering them inhumane. This policy enactment will definitely drive business development around these chips and their commercialization. How will the market get saturated with this technology and how long will that take. Will thestart-up be able to survive as bigger giants get into the game? If this technology is patented (which it is), what other methods can other companies utilize to enter this market? If there is no other than this then the market barrier is quite high. In that case there could be licensing in the horizon!
  3. Custom drugs?? – “Ultimately, each person would have their own DataChip or MetaChip that contains their own genetic information,” Dordick says, noting that most drugs on the market today are “one size fits all.” —- Now that could be something over the coming years. If we have our genetic makeup embedded in such chips and drug companies start developing molecules customized to our code, will that change the dynamics of drug development significantly. Is custom drug through custom tests the next generation of development ahead? That’s where I will be interested. And guess what – one field that will be greatly leveraged is clinical informatics and bio- informatics.

Similar article of Interest:

Biomedical Engineers’ ‘Body-on-a-Chip’ Could Reduce Cost of Developing New Drugs


Posted in biotech, health, Innovation, Medicine, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »

Piezoelectrics on steroids – researcher creates artificial compound

Posted by evolvingwheel on November 17, 2007

Pradeep Sharma and his research team at University of Houston are in the process of testing an engineered piezoelectric material that could revolutionize the way piezoelectrics produce power. In naturally occurring piezoelectric materials there are several limitations. Even though these compounds are being used in increasing commercial products such as airbags, lighters, etc., there extensive growth in market utilization and efficiency are limited by their brittleness and the requirement of a lot of energy. Sharma’s research encompasses theoretical approach to design fabrication of materials and then practical testing of real compounds created artificially from ground up. pradeep_sharma_houston.jpg

If a fairly good amount of energy can be created from a tangible mechanical pressure, these compounds have the potential to appear in several commercial applications that require power generation to run internal operations of devices. Considering the claim that the artificially engineered materials are steroids, numerous mechanical applications can be associated with the method of generating power by pressure. Prosthetic limbs is one area of application. Another good application could be tying this process of deriving decent electricity from the gas and brake pedals in cars. Or even from steering wheels. Guess how many times we press these objects while driving.

I will try to do some more research on the nanoscale effects that produces these compounds. With my interest in nanotechnology realm, the process of adding or manipulating attributes in materials with the help of nano-optics will be something worth knowing. Read the article [here].

Picture: Pradeep Sharma; Courtesy University of Houston website

Posted in Energy, Innovation, materials, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »

Nanotube radio – world’s smallest: Can it be tied up to MEMS?

Posted by evolvingwheel on November 12, 2007

I love technologyreview.com. Whenever I visit after a while, I always find something enthralling. Something that just pokes my mind and ends up creating a boundless array of imaginative possibilities. This time I came across the article on world’s smallest radio – a carbon nanotube that is able to receive radio-frequency and play the song sent over the carrier wave.

Innovative engineering feat resides in the simplest perspective. When a complicated scientific phenomenon, in this case a radio, is condensed in a nanoscale dimension, the magic is worth watching. Even if there is no immediate commercial prospect of the invention, the concept itself is path-breaking. One of the coolest aspect of the research is the way the radio receives the signal. In conventional radios the antenna receives the electromagnetic signal. Over here the radio starts responding when the frequency of the carrier wave matches the resonating frequency of the carbon nanotube. You can find the detail in the link [here]. nanoradio-timeline-sizes.jpg

I was also reading about the possible applications. One of them worth talking about is the packaging of this radio with MEMS (microelectromechanicalsensors). MEMSare supposed to be injected into the bloodstream and the sensors will record data – blood sugar level, cancer markers, blood pathogens, etc. Once this radio is configured to transmit data, a whole new world will open up (may be already in the process of opening up). MEMS will play an enormous role in preventive diagnostics and this tiny radio can remotely send information to a receiver outside the body. I have to do some more research in biological MEMS now!

Posted in biotech, blood, Communication, Innovation, micron, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »

Nano-clothing – Could this be a commercially viable choice anytime soon?

Posted by evolvingwheel on October 10, 2007

Popular Science posted an article about a nanoparticle coated jacket that wards off viruses. Researchers from Cornell have sprinkled the upper cotton layer with silver nanoparticles that deflect bacteria and viruses. Further, palladium nanoparticles sprayed on the neck and upper parts of the jacket acts to breakdown pollutants. This functional clothing does a little bit more than just making one look cool. Read the [article] here.

In the latest trend in nanotextiles, nano-metallic particles are sprayed on the fabric to perform numerous tasks – keeping bigger dirt particles and bad stains off. However, there are some difficulties in creating such cool dresses. A considerable degree of precision is required in spraying nanoparticles evenly across the whole length of the fabric. It is extremely difficult to maintain such a level of accuracy in such a small scale of length. On the other hand, the silver and gold particles are not cost effective for mass production and cheap commercial acceptance. Some of the business aspects that should be considered to make this innovation a household word are:

  1. Commercial entry of high-end devices those are capable of mass-producing nano material layers fast and cheap.
  2. Investing effectively in R&D for finding nanoparticles that are more cost effective than metals like gold and silver.
  3. Create awareness in the community about the strength and efficacy of nanosprayed clothing in defeating daily infections.
  4. Consider the negative effect of nano particles when infused into the eco-system – by disposal, factory run-off, and/or recycling.

Posted in Environment, Innovation, micron, nano assembly, nanotechnology | 2 Comments »

A New Dimension in INKJET Printing

Posted by evolvingwheel on September 21, 2007

I am fanatically inclined towards technologies or scientific ideas that try to change an existing concept from inside out. Even thought it might not sound that revolutionary, but the change in the way of thinking through a process is remarkably reflected in the development of nanoscale inkjet printing. John Rogers, a professor of engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, has come up with a concept of inkjet printing that is capable of printing dots of materials just 250 nanometers in diameter. The possible applications of this technology will be in nanomaterial printing for plastic electronics and biomedical sensors. Recently, revolutionary developments are taking place in the nanomaterial domain. Any mass scale printing ability for these nano small compounds on films, ceramic sheets, and plastics will positively be a market winner.

The coolest part of this invention is the way the small droplets are extracted from the nozzle and laid out on the terget substrate. In regular inkjet printers, droplets of the order of micrometers are either pushed out by pressure or by heat from the nozzle. However, in nanoscale engineering, static forces and hydrodynamics of fluids come into play and distort the accuracy of printing. The inventors replaced the concept of PUSH with PULL. An electric field from the bottom (substrate) generates enough force to draw the fluid from the nozzle and make a cone tip. This helps to steer the material towards the exact target spot – a great innovation.

The developers are now working on enhancing the speed of printing. With perseverance and further engineering manipulations, this process can reach industry level efficiency in the near future. Could this be a replacement for the silicon fabrication technology in the coming future?

Read the [article] here.

Click [here] for John Rogers nanoresearch.

Picture Courtesy: UIUC

Posted in hardware, Innovation, materials, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »

Nanoparticle to fight allergy

Posted by evolvingwheel on June 22, 2007

Its the buckyball – a soccer ball shaped nanoparticle that has been found effective in fighting allergies. Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University have been able to show that certain carbon based nanoparticles have been able to restrict allergic response during cell culture experiments. This finding is going to contribute to nanoimmunology research significantly.

Nanoparticle research is now the emerging gateway for new inventions in material science, technology, robotics, and healthcare. Micro-scale medicine research that involves binding agents to cells and tissues has been a very exciting domain of exploration. Particles that can attach to extremely small bio entities (like blood cells or tumor cells) are capable of activating, limiting, and catalyzing events in our favor. The buckeyball, with 60 Carbon atoms, is relatively inert and stable. This particle is capable of restrict mast cells from releasing histamine.

As with any early research, university research teams are the pathfinders in early breakthroughs. Healthcare and medical startups in nanoparticle domain will more and more tap on these teams and their findings. However, these findings need to go through more rigorous validations in order to reduce the risk of failure in pilot studies leading to launch. The invention-to-market time for nano materials are lower than pharmacological developments (that often range from 5-10 years) for conventional drugs. This whole new area of nanoimmunology will definitely create a new business model for investments and availability of affordable advanced treatments.

Read the article [here].

Posted in Innovation, investment, Medicine, micron, nanotechnology | 2 Comments »

Thermoelectric Organic Compund – Beyond just renewable energy

Posted by evolvingwheel on March 9, 2007

This one caught my attention for the properties of the organic molecule – create voltage when heated. The substance doesn’t conduct heat but rather electrons across itself. A very strong candidate for thermoelectricity.

Researchers at UC Berkeley successfully conducted experiments to prove that the molecule indeed generates voltage when exposed to heat. You may read more details about the substance and its properties from the link here. I am more interested in its commercial applications and business investments associated with it.

A lot of energy is lost in the form of heat when we derive power from coal, nuclear reactions, etc. These organic molecules can be stacked across heat exhaust devices generating electricity off the exhaust plume. How noble. However, the current challenge with them is the efficiency. That needs to be enhanced by altering the structure of the molecule. However, abundance and affordability make the research worthwhile. May be they could even try to dope this molecule with some other organic substrate and try to observe any change in efficiency.

This is a great consideration for investment analysis – over abundance, cheap versus low efficiency. Should you follow the track for more research or just try to commercialize a draft version and try to get the industry evolve it with changing applications, implementations, and adjustments around it? Another technical goal is to layer the organic molecules between metal sheets to make them thermoelectric. If this could be achieved in a cheap way commercially, the business prospects look promising.

Posted in Energy, Environment, fuel, Innovation, micron, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »

Let there be vision – And there were Retinal Implants

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 28, 2007

People who turned blind from retinal degeneration have got a recent improvement in their ability to see. An improvement in the implants have allowed scientists to embed four times more electrodes in the chap implant from before – and thus a 4-fold increase in resolution. The device, developed by Mark Humayun and his colleagues at USC consists of an array of hair thin electrodes in a tiny chip that is implanted in the retina. The scientific breakthrough has been with stacking the large number of electrodes in the tiny chip bed.

There are few important technological aspects of this development. One is the wireless transmission of the visual data to the chip after the video is processed by an instrumentation clipped to the belt on the waist. The electrical impulse is then transmitted to the electrodes that send electrical stimulus to the retinal cells. However, the hurdle is not just with the packing of thousands of electrodes but making the impulse work identical to the effect of light on the retina. How do they do that? May be they will soon find ways to tweak electrical signals that may trigger stimulations on retinal cells similar to that of light. Guess more research needs to be done on the behavior of the retinal cells, their properties, and their behavior. What type of cellular protiens are located over there and how do they behave to light?

Then comes the packing of electrodes. Nano electrodes may be. How do they stack them though? I have to do a bit more research on the video processing side too. Can something be done on the algorithm side? If more information can be sent by using optimized processing algorithm. Read the article [here].

Posted in Innovation, Medicine, micron, nanotechnology, optics, robots | Leave a Comment »

Have you heard of Zyvex?

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 21, 2007

Let’s say we are in a time machine and I am able to go back 10 years and had the opportunity to invest on VOIP technology. Today, I would be sitting (like few others) on a gold mine. Now again I am sitting on a forward moving time machine and I see Zyvex. Well, is it so dramatic? Not sure. Just came across this company while browsing for nanotech assembly plants on the web.

Considering the dynamic of the nano-component and nano-material industry, the necessity of a massive parallel assembly infrastructure providing a high precision but fast implementation platform is imperative. As new patents, technologies, and scientific methods spew out from university labs and research institutions, a successful entry to the market and eventual infusion to the consumer’s lifestyle will require mass scale production. Now the capital investment for manufacturing such micro and nano level components is enormous. In a fast paced and an extremely short time-to-market, time is the essence. Outsourcing the manufacturing aspect to a highly sophisticated, reliable, and dependent partner will be a critical consideration.

[Go to Zyvex]

Posted in nano assembly, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »

A New Facelift for Lithium Ion Batteries

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 20, 2007

Battery and portable power sources have been a special interest of mine for a while. However, my eyeballs have focused more on the adaptability of a new technology and the subsequent business developments around it – whether in the core industry or the supporting industry. The following article on a new type of lithium ion battery has drawn a considerable interest from both the core portable power industry as well as from the tools and consumer products side.

[Read Article] Chiang, a material science researcher from MIT has developed a new compound (lithium iron phosphate) that is capable of providing more than twice the power of conventional lithium ion batteries but with less than one fifth of the weight. Furthermore, the battery is claimed to withstand 10 times more recharging, The material also carries iron, which could be an inexpensive replacement for cobalt – a cheap value proposition. Now what could be the implications of this new product to the market?

  1. Existing battery companies (Duracell, etc.) adopt a similar version of the new technology and displace the new company eventually?
  2. A123 systems innovate the product, patent its different components, and partner with a large tool maker of heavy-duty product company to thwart any competitive overrun
  3. The tools market evolve. The tools industry new innovation to the products, which they couldn’t because of the power constraints.
  4. Hybrid auto industry implements the new batteries and thoroughly tests the feasibility of sustained power extraction, safety, recharge, and disposal.
  5. Digital consumer equipment manufacturers adpots the new technology and configures their product lines, designs, and ergonomics accordingly.

 There are tons of other stuff that could be done, thought of, and implemented.

Posted in Energy, Innovation, materials, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »