NNI Report Assessing the Status of EHS Risk Science

Report examines progress three years after the release of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy

(March 21, 2015) The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) today published the report from the workshop, “Stakeholder Perspectives on Perception, Assessment, and Management of the Potential Risks of Nanotechnology” (R3 Workshop), which was held September 10-11, 2013, in Washington, D.C. The goal of the workshop was to assess the status of nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety (EHS) risk science three years after the development of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy and to identify the tools and best practices used by risk assessors to address the implications of nanotechnology. A wide range of stakeholders including Federal and State regulators, small and large businesses, insurance companies, academic researchers, occupational safety specialists, and public and environmental advocacy groups shared their perspectives on the risk management process; discussed strategies and approaches for improving risk science methods; and examined ways that NNI agencies can assist stakeholders in the responsible development of nanotechnology.

Stakeholders participating in the workshop presented their perspectives and methods used to assess and manage the potential risks of nanotechnology. Research presented at the workshop shows that technical risk data alone will not enable decisions; risk evaluations by different stakeholders with varying biases, values, and stances can affect the perceptions and behaviors (e.g., investment or personal safety decisions) of consumers, regulators, developers, manufacturers, and insurers.

Following a robust dialogue among participants, including a variety of stakeholder perspectives, participants identified needs in four areas. (The following list is not prioritized):

  • Communication Resources, including improved transparency in reporting the presence of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) and continued collaboration among diverse stakeholder groups.
  • Decision Tools, such as improved detection and characterization tools; improved methods for assessing both actual exposure to and potential risk from ENMs; tools to address nanotechnology-related environmental, health, and safety (“nanoEHS”) issues sooner in the product life cycle.
  • Data Resources, such as repositories or databases to facilitate access to or organization of existing information on nanoEHS; methods for accessing and investigating potentially protected information; and continued toxicology studies on the effects of ENMs.
  • Standards and Guidance Resources, in order to facilitate navigation of nanotechnology-enabled applications through the regulatory process and improved data quality and methods for reporting data used in nanomaterial risk assessment.

To view the full report, please visit www.nano.gov/R3report.

Media Contact: Marlowe Newman, mnewman@nnco.nano.gov or 703-292-7128

NNI Releases Supplement to the President’s 2016 Budget

Budget provides $1.5 billion in funding; details progress on NSIs, collaborations between Federal agencies

(March 11, 2015) The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 provides $1.5 billion for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a continued Federal investment in support of the President’s priorities and innovation strategy. Cumulatively totaling more than $22 billion since the inception of the NNI in 2001, this funding reflects nanotechnology’s potential to significantly improve our fundamental understanding and control of matter at the nanoscale and to translate that knowledge into solutions for critical national needs.

Nearly half of the requested budget is dedicated to applications-focused R&D and support for the Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives (NSIs), reflecting an increased emphasis within the NNI on accelerating the transition of nanotechnology-based discoveries from lab to market. The NSIs are multiagency initiatives designed to accelerate innovation in areas of national priority through enhanced interagency coordination and collaboration. Furthermore, the NNI has continued to grow its hallmark environmental, health, and safety (EHS) activities, which now account for more than 10% of the NNI’s total budget (7% in dedicated EHS investments plus approximately 3% in additional EHS-related investments within the NSIs).

“Right now, the NNI is focused on innovations that support national priorities, while maintaining a strong foundation of fundamental research in nanoscience,” says Dr. Michael Meador, Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office. “Our goal is to create an environment to foster technology transfer and new applications today, while supporting the basic research that will provide a continuing pipeline of new discoveries to enable future revolutionary applications tomorrow.”

The President’s 2016 Budget supports nanoscale science, engineering, and technology R&D at 11 agencies; another 9 agencies have nanotechnology-related mission interests or regulatory responsibilities. The NNI Supplement to the President’s 2016 Budget documents activities of these agencies in addressing the goals and objectives of the NNI.

To view the full document, visit www.nano.gov/2016BudgetSupplement.

ASU, IBM collaboration on DNA sequencing

A team of scientists from Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute and IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center have developed a prototype DNA reader that could make whole genome profiling an everyday practice in medicine.  “Our goal is to put cheap, simple and powerful DNA and protein diagnostic devices into every single doctor’s office,” said Stuart Lindsay, an ASU physics professor and director of Biodesign’s Center for Single Molecule Biophysics. Such technology could help usher in the age of personalized medicine, where information from an individual’s complete DNA and protein profiles could be used to design treatments specific to their individual makeup.  Link

Protons fuel graphene prospects

26 Nov 2014 – Graphene, impermeable to all gases and liquids, can easily allow protons to pass through it, University of Manchester researchers have found.

Graphene allows protons to pass through it, contrary to previous thinking
Graphene allows protons to pass through it, contrary to previous thinking

Published in the journal Nature, the discovery could revolutionise fuel cells and other hydrogen-based technologies as they require a barrier that only allow protons – hydrogen atoms stripped off their electrons – to pass through.

In addition, graphene membranes could be used to sieve hydrogen gas out of the atmosphere, where it is present in minute quantities, creating the possibility of electric generators powered by air.  Rest

Biological Circuits

A team led by ETH Professor Yaakov Benenson has developed several new components for biological circuits. These components are key building blocks for constructing precisely functioning and programmable bio-computers.

Symbolbild Biocomputer
Researchers are expanding the applicability of biological circuits. Background: Microscopic image of human kidney cells with fluorescent proteins in cell culture. (Photo: Montage / iStock)

Bio-engineers are working on the development of biological computers with the aim of designing small circuits made from biological material that can be integrated into cells to change their functions. In the future, such developments could enable cancer cells to be reprogrammed, thereby preventing them from dividing at an uncontrollable rate. Stem cells could likewise be reprogrammed into differentiated organ cells.  Rest

DNA Wire

The promise of molecular electronics gets hoisted up the flagpole periodically, but now an international team of researchers based out of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem claim to have made a breakthrough with DNA molecules that they believe may be the most significant development in the last decade of molecular electronics research.

In research published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, a international group of researchers hailing from Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Spain and the United States has demonstrated that electric current can be transmitted through long DNA molecules. They believe that this demonstration could lead to the development of DNA-based electronic circuits.  Rest

BioNano Cancer Bombs

Biomedical engineering researchers have developed a drug delivery system consisting of nanoscale “cocoons” made of DNA that target cancer cells and trick the cells into absorbing the cocoon before unleashing anticancer drugs. The work was done by researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“This drug delivery system is DNA-based, which means it is biocompatible and less toxic to patients than systems that use synthetic materials,” says Dr. Zhen Gu, senior author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC Chapel Hill.

The nano-cocoon has ligands on its surface that bind to receptors on the surface of cancer cells. Image courtesy of Zhen Gu. Click to enlarge.

“This technique also specifically targets cancer cells, can carry a large drug load and releases the drugs very quickly once inside the cancer cell,” Gu says.  Link

Australian Research Council goes Bio-Nano with $26M/7 yrs

MEDIA RELEASE:  Australian Research Council (ARC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Professor Aidan Byrne, has today officially opened the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology at Monash University in Melbourne.

Professor Byrne opened the Centre on behalf of the Minister for Education, the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP, and said it would be the focus of bio-nano research activity in Australia.

“Nanomedicines are on the cusp of revolutionising diagnosis and therapy in many diseases; the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology comprises a multi-disciplinary team focused on understanding and controlling the interface of materials with biological systems.

“The expected outcomes through research at this Centre are better diagnostic and therapeutic tools that are designed via an enhanced understanding of the bio-nano interface.  rest