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Summary Report on nanoUtah 2008

At the nanoUtah 2008 Conference, we were privileged to have Randolph Fillmore, a member of the National Association of Science Writers, a freelance writer specializing in university-based science communication, at our service. Below is an abstract featuring the conference keynote speakers from his report on nanoUtah 2008:

Utah's fourth statewide nanotechnology conference, held last year at the University of Utah Oct. 16-17 at the Huntsman Cancer Institute on the university campus focused on “Bridging the Gap” between nanotechnology fabrication and developing nano-sized applications for biomedical use.

Conference keynote speakers emphasized the promise of nanotechnology for cancer diagnosis, prognosis and treatment and discussed nanotechnology's potential for “resurrecting” some cancer treatment modalities once abandoned because of their cytotoxic properties. Those treatments, they said, may have new potential when targeted locally and delivered more safely to tumors with the help of nanotechnologies.

Wallace Akerley, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said that oncologists need revolutionary nanotechnologies to improve screening and imaging tools for making better diagnoses and prognoses.He also called for new nanotechnologies to target anti-cancer agents directly to tumors.

Keynote speaker Lawrence Tamarkin, Ph.D., CEO and founder of Cytimmune Sciences, Inc. ( in Rockville, Maryland, offered a new tool. Tamarkin co-invented a colloidal (suspended in water) gold-based, tumor-targeting nanomedicine platform technology that successfully carries the potent recombinant human tumor necrosis factor alpha (rhTNF) directly to tumors.

Keynote speaker Scott McNeil, Ph.D., director of the NCI nanotechnology characterization laboratory (, initiated in late 2004, is a joint effort between NCI, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). Their mission is to test in vitro and in vivo using animal models promising nanotechnologies for their physical characteristics, such as toxicity and cell uptake. According to McNeil, in an effort to speed technologies to the market and to the bedside, the lab also helps explain and defend successful technologies to both the FDA and to venture capitalists.

Also from the NCI, keynote speaker Piotr Grodzinski, Ph.D., director of NCI's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer (, stressed the need to get more oncologists involved in the nanotechnology community's efforts to develop diagnostic, imaging, staging and treatment technologies for combating cancer. Grodzinski cited the potential for using nano particles as “tags” for targeting specific proteins, as well as developing magnetic nano particles for ultra sensitive imaging.

The design of those nano-sized devices, said Session Two (materials and characterization) keynote speaker Joseph DeSimone, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, is critical, as they must be fabricated precisely, allowing for control over nanoparticle size, shape, deformability and surface chemistry. To accomplish that, DeSimone's laboratory has developed a high resolution molding technique called PRINT (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) that can produce nano particles ranging in varying sizes, from 20nm to greater than 100 microns, and in a variety of shapes, including spheres, cylinders, discs and toroidal. The nanoparticles can be made of organic or inorganic materials and with solid or porous characteristics for a variety of cargoes.

Keynote speaker Jindrich Kopecek, Ph.D., of the University of Utah's Departments of Pharmaceutics, Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Bioengineering, who attendees described as a pioneer in nanotechnologies for targeted drug delivery, said that clinical trials of nanomedicines have “demonstrated reduced side effects, increased therapeutic efficacy and improved patient compliance.” Noting that translation to the clinic has not been fast enough, Kopocek added that the next step required drugs with longer intravascular half-lives and the potential for double targeting to tumor cells as well as subcellular organelles, especially the mitochondria.

The organizing committee of nanoUtah were very pleased with the outcome of the conference and are already making preparations for and exciting nanoUtah 2009. Click the link to visit the nanoUtah 2009 website for more information.

Last Updated: 3/27/18