Nanotechnology research neglects world's poor
6 March 2007
Washington, USA. Nanotechnology has the potential to
generate enormous health benefits for the more than five billion people
living in the developing world, according to Dr Peter Singer, senior
scientist at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health and professor of
medicine at University of Toronto.
"But it remains to be seen whether
novel applications of nanotechnology will deliver on their promise. A
fundamental problem is that people are not engaged and are not talking to
each other. Business has little incentive — as shown by the lack of new
drugs for malaria, dengue fever and other diseases that disproportionately
affect people in developing countries — to invest in the appropriate
nanotechnology research targeted at the developing world."
group in Toronto published a study in 2005 identifying and ranking the ten
nanotechnologies most likely to benefit the developing world in the near
future. Nanotechnology applications related to energy storage, production,
and conversion; agricultural productivity enhancement; water treatment and
remediation; and diagnosis and treatment of diseases topped the list.
"Countries like Brazil, India, China and South Africa have significant
nanotechnology research initiatives that could be directed toward the
particular needs of the poor. But there is still a danger — if market forces
are the only dynamic — that small minorities of people in wealthy nations
will benefit from nanotechnology breakthroughs in the health sector, while
large majorities, mainly in the developing world, will not," noted Dr.
Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for the Project on Emerging
Dr. Piotr Grodzinski, director of the Nanotechnology
Alliance for Cancer at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of
Health (NIH), USA, discussed the impact of nanotechnology on diagnostics and
therapies for cancer. He said, "It is my belief that nanomaterials and
nanomedical devices will play increasingly critical and beneficial roles in
improving the way we diagnose, treat, and ultimately prevent cancer and
other diseases. But we face challenges; the complexity of clinical
implementation and the treatment cost may cause gradual, rather than
immediate, distribution of these novel yet effective approaches."
example, in the future, it may be possible for citizens in Bangladesh to
place contaminated water in inexpensive transparent bottles that will
disinfect the water when placed in direct sunlight, or for doctors in Mexico
to give patients inhalable vaccines that do not need refrigeration," Dr.
The discussion took place at a program entitled "Using
Nanotechnology to Improve Health Care in Developing Countries," held at the
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The event was organized by
the Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies and Global Health
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is an initiative
launched by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew
Charitable Trusts in 2005.