Trip Report: ASME nEMB 2010 Conference – Part II

Contributed by Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

For part I of this post, see Trip Report: ASME nEMB 2010 Conference – Part I.

The conference began on February 7 with a day-long program/tutorial on nanomedicine, which I heard was an impressive program focused on graduate and undergraduate engineering students. I attended the programs on February 8 &9, kicked off with a keynote from Dr.Andrew Eschenbach, Former Director of the National Cancer Institute and former FDA Commissioner. Dr. Eschenbach’s presentation was remarkable in that he focused the audience to not go into nanomedicine for the glory of it, but simply to improve the quality of life of humankind.

But at the same time he was clear that the hurdles (FDA approval is the Holy Grail in any type of medical research) were not trivial. He also spoke of how, even after FDA approval, drug companies have learned the hard way that if nanotech-enabled “improved medical enhancement” for drug delivery is not preferred by the patient, the new alternative will fail. Nanobiomedicine is clearly not for the faint of heart.

The highlight for me was the evening panel on February 8 that featured two Nobel Laureates – both at the University of Texas – Dr. Ferid Murad and Dr. Robert Curl (who is considered the father of nanotechnology). These two amazing scientists were joined by Dr. Peppas, Dr. Rebecca R. Richards-Kortum (Rice University) and Dr. Fazle Hussain (University of Houston), and with Dr. Ferrari serving as moderator.

The humble nature of the Nobel Laureates took me aback; they were both so plain-spoken and down to earth as they described how they began their research and received their Nobel prizes. I also really enjoyed when Dr. Ferrari asked the panelists when they knew they had a “gift” for science and when they followed this passion. As a mother of two young girls, I am especially intrigued by this question–as I wait to see what their futures hold and which gifts and passions they will pursue.

Another highlight of my visit with a lunchtime stop at Pappas BBQ in Houston where I sampled the “lunch special” which featured FOUR kinds of meat (the ribs were amazing) and the best coleslaw I’ve had in recent memory. After the feast, I was given a tour of Dr. Ferrari’s facilities at UT Houston, met more of his staff of researchers and drove by the new nBME facility that the university will open this spring.

MIG plans on hosting an event in the fall to showcase biomedical applications of MEMS in Austin, Texas in conjunction with nBME. The program will focus on MEMS & microfabrication technologies and products that are being developed for the biomedical market today. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting program, which will feature presentations from the FDA, NIH, clinicians, biomedical firms and researchers.

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