By the year 2024, the global nanotechnology market is expected to exceed a net value of approximately $124 billion USD1. As the applications of this area of science continue to increase within the electronics, energy, biomedical, cosmetic, defense, automotive and agricultural industries, the rise in government support and private sector funding to improve this technology is also expected to rise. Within the United States, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which was established in 2001, is a collaboration of 20 federal departments and agencies with interests in nanotechnology research, development, and commercialization. Since its inception, the NNI has not only improved the research and development of nanotechnology within the United States but also on the global stage through its impressive collection of publications in various high impact journals, particularly over the last ten years.
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In 2014, the addition of nanotechnology into the “High Tech” (HT) manufacturing industries of the United States was found to both increase the U.S. gross domestic product by $511 billion and created approximately 1.8 million high-paying U.S. jobs in the process2. In a recent strategic plan presented by the NNI in 2016, several Program Component Areas (PCAs) were identified for further research and development (R&D) programs over the next two years. These PCAs include:
- Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives and Grand Challenges
- Foundational Research
- Nanotechnology-Enabled Applications, Devices and Systems
- Research Infrastructure and Instrumentation
- Environment, Health and Safety
One of the most significant challenges that the science community, not only in the U.S., faces in regards to nanotechnology advances is the ability to integrate nanoscale materials into new devices and systems following the discovery of their novel properties at this nano-level. Within the NNI exists several agencies, such as the Nanomanufacturing and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs, that are specifically focused on improving the manufacturing and measurement technologies needed to transfer newly developed nanotechnologies into products for both commercial and public use. The NNI’s National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) has also increased the number of outreach activities available to the private sector to improve this transition period.
U.S. Healthcare Nanotechnology Market
The potential of nanostructured materials to improve the functionality of various medical devices has encouraged the advancement of nanomedicine in the global network. The main reason for the success associated with the integration of nanotechnology in healthcare is the potential for a treatment option to work at the same level that several biological processes, cellular mechanisms and organic molecules function at, particularly those which occur during disease pathogenesis. Within the nanomedicine sector, approximately 76% of publications and 59% of patents have been focused on drug delivery applications of nanotechnology. Although Europe currently dominates the nanomedicine publications by 36%, the United States closely follows with 32% of related publications being submitted by American researchers3.
Although the advancements in this sector of nanotechnology are impressive, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a lengthy approval procedure and series of regulations that must be completed before any products are available for public use. While nanoparticles are not hazardous when considered alone, their unique properties cause scientists to question their safety; which has therefore required the development of an increased amount of regulations that the pharmaceutical industries must meet prior to products entering the marketplace.
While these barriers remain in place to protect the public against potentially hazardous devices, several nano-based products have been approved by the FDA and have successfully impacted therapies within the medical community. For example, Doxil and Abraxane are two nanotherapeutic agents that have already exhibited an economic success upon their introduction into the market3. Note that despite the length regulatory process posed by the FDA combined with the expensive R&D process that was initially required for the development of these drugs, the production of both Doxil and Abraxane remains an economic success.
1. “Global nanotechnology market 2018-2024: Market is expected to exceed US$ 125 Billion” – PR Newswire
2. “Supplement to the President’s 2018 Budget” – The National Nanotechnology Initiative
3. Morigi, V., Tocchio, A., Pellegrini, C. B., Sakamoto, J H., Arnone, M., & Tasciotti, E. (2012). Nanotechnology in Medicine: From Inception to Market Domination. Journal of Drug Delivery. DOI: 10.1155/2012/389485.