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Nanotechnology, a key enabling technology at the foundation of the Health sector. Nanotechnlogoy contributes to a broad spectrum of applications in this sector, from enhancing drug development to the development of point-of-care products for decentralized diagnostics to a DNA analysis (next gen sequencing).
Nanotechnology has a huge societal and economic impact. Thanks to a good organizational structure The Netherlands have reached an international lead position in the area of nanotechnology. The Dutch government has also been made aware of the importance and impact of nanotechnology on the Health sector. Companies that make use of micro- and nanotechnology (nano inside) in the Health domain, are most typically in the scale-up phase of development and have applications both in the domestic and global domain.
Longer healthy living
Nano4health is aimed at the themes health and cure. Nanotech enabled solutions ensure that people can live longer with a higher quality of life and that they can take care of themselves, with personalized care. To reach up to five years longer quality of life is within reach with nanotechnology as a key element. The laboratory will go to the person more than the person will go to the lab, monitoring by nanotech can be done in a home environment.
Medication and treatment based on nanotech based microfluidics and lab-on-a-chip solutions will be applied individually. Nanotechnology based DNA analysis systems will be used to analyse the entire genome, intestinal flora, cancer cells and in a variety of ways. Organ-on-a-chip is expected to ensure faster drug delivery and an alternative for animal testing.
Nanotechnology will be key in improved drug delivery and contrast agents for imaging technology. Nanomechanical materials and structural quality reduce rejection processes in implants, make wearable medical measurement and monitoring instruments possible and patient friendly. The high tech SME’s and a clear market demand for solutions make for better chances of impact on the short and medium term. The time to market will mostly be influenced by regulation and financing.
The ecosystem that has emerged has led to a large number of high-tech SMEs with scale up potential and a good basic infrastructure that will make the opportunities for economic impact much higher. The medical background of the research requires thorough research, validation and risk management.
These are necessary for an innovation to grow into a marketable, approved product. Research and development can take up to 15 years as a rule, rather than the exception. Investing in the existing ecosystem is therefore necessary to profit from the benefits of investments already done in The Netherlands. In addition, the highly specialized market for medical scientific research can be supplied with instruments and devices in the short term (0 – 7 years). Improved market access can be expected through collaboration with leading Medical Centers within the program. With sufficient investments, the export potential for the Netherlands can be maintained and the sector will become an even more important source of scale-ups and export income. Many markets and market segments in which nanotech is the key to growth are growing much faster than the average market. Market growth of more than 15% is no exception.
What is already there?
Nanotechnology is already being used in the Health sector. Consider for example personalised medicine, pre-screening of patients in a home situation, the smartphone as a personal medical assistant, organ-on-a-chip research technology, neural prostheses, societal reintegration of chronic patients (for example with the use of a wearable artificial kidney or insulin equipment for diabetic patients), monitoring of food.
What can we expect?
Nanotech enabled solutions will ensure that people can live longer with a higher quality of life, taking caring of themselves and living in their own home. Personalized care can be delivered by medical measuring and monitoring instruments. Also, nanotechnology will enable the individual specific medication and solutions to target drug delivery much more efficient, for example by use of localized chemotherapy.
What will the future of health care look like in 2050? A health care system that focuses on keeping people heathy instead of focusing on the cure. Would it be possible to have a ‘digital twin’ of every citizen that contains all medical and health-based information? Nanotechnology is essential to gather information: nanotech based on superfast DNA analysis, with nano particles from ultra-sharp medical imaging (PET-MRI, CT and other), nano sensors like the ones in nano drugs, organ-on-a-chip based on a patient’s own cells and personalized medicine. All of these technologies contribute to lowering health care cost. With a Digital Twin preventieve medicine can be applied, the citizen or patient can live a longer and more independent life while organs on a chip can reduce cost of medicine. And if we start to see healthy food as a first step in prevention, a Digital Twin can also play a significant role in customized health care advice.