An innovation ecosystem drives future for nanomedicine

by Angela Herring

From tar­geted drug delivery mech­a­nisms to super­sen­si­tive imaging tech­niques, nan­otech­nology holds many promises for med­i­cine. But advances taking place in the research lab will help few patients without suc­cessful trans­la­tion into clin­ical and com­mer­cial envi­ron­ments, said Srinivas Sridhar, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Physics and director the Nanomed­i­cine IGERT Center, an Inte­gra­tive Grad­uate Edu­ca­tion and Research Trainee­ship jointly funded by the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and the National Cancer Institute.

Since its incep­tion in 2005, the center has sought to estab­lish edu­ca­tional and research lead­er­ship in the fields of nanomed­i­cine and nanobi­ology, according to Sridhar, but only recently has it begun to expand into the final fron­tier: trans­la­tion. National funding agen­cies have sounded the call for keeping the research eye on com­mer­cial­iza­tion, he said, but being suc­cessful, he explained, “requires an inno­va­tion ecosystem. It’s not just sci­en­tists and engi­neers; you’ve got to have many others, like reg­u­la­tors, CEOs, entre­pre­neurs, gov­ern­ment offi­cials, and ven­ture capitalists.”

As part of a new and ongoing effort to estab­lish a knowl­edge resource for nanomed­i­cine trans­la­tion, the Nanomed­i­cine IGERT Center intro­duced a new course, “Nan­otech­nology and Nanomed­i­cine Com­mer­cial­iza­tion: From Con­cept to Market.” The course is taught by Mostafa Analoui, head of health­care and life sci­ences at Liv­ingston Secu­ri­ties and an estab­lished financier and entre­pre­neur. In par­allel, Sridhar and Analoui orga­nized a first-​​of-​​its-​​kind monthly sem­inar series this spring, bringing in world-​​leading experts from a variety of posi­tions along the nanomed­i­cine trans­la­tion chain. In its first iter­a­tion, the sem­inar wel­comed CEOs, direc­tors, and gov­ern­ment leaders from IBM, the National Cancer Insti­tute, and Oxford Biosciences.

One speaker, Piotr Grodzinski, the founding director of NCI’s Alliance for Nan­otech­nology in cancer, praised Northeastern’s estab­lished lead­er­ship in nan­otech­nology, from Sridhar’s exper­tise in char­ac­ter­i­za­tion to Vladimir Torchilin’s exper­tise in drug delivery and Ahmed Busnaina’s in nanoman­u­fac­turing. The IGERT center adds the edu­ca­tional com­po­nent, focusing on training the next gen­er­a­tion of nanomed­i­cine experts. “In this dif­ferent economy we’re in now, stu­dents need more hands-​​on expe­ri­ence,” Grodzinski said. “So it’s a clever model Sri has cre­ated, which increases stu­dents’ chances of get­ting a job.”

Com­bined with field-​​training, the new focus on trans­la­tion and com­mer­cial­iza­tion promises to edu­cate stu­dents to be well-​​rounded in not only the sci­ences, but also in busi­ness and innovation.

The sem­inar series is open to the public and has been well-​​received by stu­dents, leaders, and com­mu­nity mem­bers alike. Sridhar hopes this will only be the first in a long line of new devel­op­ments estab­lishing the “inno­va­tion ecosystem” he believes is so crit­ical to suc­cess­fully trans­late research into fea­sible patient treatments.

Originally published on May 21, 2013 in news@Northeastern

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