NANOTECH – THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN PHYSICS MATHEMATICS AND BIOLOGY
Manzoor Koyakutty, Professor, Cancer-Nanomedicine, ACNSMM
Nanoscience has mesmerizing ability to sparkle romance between physics, chemistry, mathematics and Biology. Amrita Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine (ACNSMM) began its journey at this beautiful interface of scientific disciplines. We try to understand the physics of nanometer dimensions, including quantum effects using advanced measurements and mathematics, do chemistry to engineer matter at atomic scale to control or alter complex biological mechanisms of diseases. I and my colleagues came together at ACNSMM, nearly 10 years back, from completely different interdisciplinary background and experiences. I worked on quantum physics of doped semiconductor nanocrystals at Defense Research & Development organization, prior to joining ACNSMM, and now exploring the methods of treating cancer using nanomedicines. Dr. Deepthy Menon, my colleague, was also a physicist with photonics background, now investigating novel drug-delivery systems using polymers. Dr. Jayakumar, an organic bio-polymer chemist from Japan, now exploring the best ways to heal a difficult wound. As the Centre was established inside Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, the research began with a strong focus on physics and chemistry but with a view towards medical applications. Applications of quantum clusters and doped biominerals like calcium phosphate for medical imaging, the physics of polymer electro-spinning to produce nanofibers of various geometries for tissue engineering, implantable drug-delivery systems , injectable bio-resorbable nano-gels , etc were some of our areas of interest . Over the years the team expanded to include specialists in different areas of biological sciences and more interactions with clinicians, so that the focus of the expanded team shifted towards translation and therapy. Lately, we opened up a new area of intrinsic nano-theragnostics, where the nanosystems act as both contrast agent and drug. Image guided surgery and tracking of drug delivery pathways has become a reality. Today the centre is excited with more than 100 patented nano-innovations spanning from cancer-nanomedicine, vaccines to auto-immune diseases and tissue engineering. With the flourishing arm of molecular medicine, new biomarkers have been discovered which could then be combined with nanosystems to provide sensitivity and specificity in diagnostics and therapy, not imagined before.
After ten years we have just scratched the surface, but the potential has been proven. We enjoy playing physics, chemistry and mathematics at nano-size scale to solve the problems of human health. But our drawing board has changed to life sciences. We engineer physical nanosystems to treat diseases by trying to understand its biology. ACNSMM has its work cut out with ‘clinical-translation’ as the focused agenda for next 10 years.