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The article authored by Dr. Shantikumar V. Nair, Dean of Research, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and Director, Amrita Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine, on the topic “The Nanotechnology Boom in Health” was featured in the Press Trust of India (PTI) news.
The field of nanotechnology began in the early 90’s with the discovery that something different happens when materials are manufactured at scales much less than a micrometer. The properties of most materials undergo a transformation below around 100-200 nm (a micrometer is 1000 nm). Some materials become conducting, some become as strong as steel, or wear resistant, or radiation absorbers, develop catalytic properties, and so on. For the purpose of this article the most interesting finding is that materials at the nanoscale become highly biologically active, can target individual cells and even sub-cellular defects, can penetrate to areas of the body not previously considered possible, synergize with the immune system favorably, can easily penetrate the skin, improve the action of medicines and vaccines, etc. From the point of view of healthcare, this is an astonishing list of capabilities that can be favorably exploited to provide a means to treat diseases in ways that could not have been dreamt of before 2000. There are over 400 major nanotech companies worldwide, of which half are nanomedicine related. The combined turnover of these companies are an impressive 100 billion dollars. India is also waking up to the potential of nanotechnology in healthcare. The global demand for nanotech professionals is 20 lakhs with 5 lakhs expected to be met by India. There are about 30-40 mature nanotech companies in India, also with half of them in some way related to healthcare.