Learning How to Take a Product from Lab to Market

One of the most helpful courses that I’d ever taken as an undergraduate student was a course called, “Engineering Entrepreneurship”. This was an intense course designed to simulate the actual process of developing a startup company based on an original technology. I spent long hours with a team of students working to draw up financial reports for our pseudo company, outlining an operations plan for development and putting together a business proposal at the end. A course like this is so important because many groups in biotechnology, energy, and other industries feel that nanotechnology is on the cusp of being an industry in and of itself if not for a few very impactful ideas.

Ttech-transfer-illohere are many ways for nanotech applications to make it to the marketplace. Indeed, there are various drugs such as Doxil which have been around for years and were “nano” before it became a buzzword.(1)  Nanotechnology has become a part of other industrial processes, giving antimicrobial properties to surfaces or improving microfab processes.  We should look, however, not only to how nanotechnology can be used to supplement existing products or how to reliable existing products as nanotechnology but also how to cultivate a new industry based on nanotechnology.

How exactly can a nanotech industry be created?  I think that is something much too involved to discuss in a single blog post.  What I can suggest is that all engineering students look into taking business courses along with their other requirements.  I believe that if engineers with a background in nanotechnology can become involved in the process of developing startups that then nanotechnology will be as recognized of an industry as biotechnology has become.

1. Doxil Home Page. Accessed 10/24/2013 <http://www.doxil.com>.

By Gregory Wiedman, a graduate student from the Materials Science Department who is altering natural peptides from Bee Honey venom to improve drug delivery.

 

 

Bee blight and a honeycomb of funding possibilities

by Holly Occhipinti http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinti1/5519458297/

by Holly Occhipinti http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinti1/5519458297/

Time Magazine had an issue recently where the front cover asked, “What would the world be like without bees”? (1) This might seem like a rather small loss to the global ecology; how could bees play that large of a role in our daily lives? Actually, bees are rather important for us as human beings and for our food sources. The article estimated that the loss of bee pollination of plants would cost several billion dollars annually. This is perhaps the reason why a funding source we as scientists might not be accustomed to thinking about, the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Agricultural Research Services (ARS), is looking to fund research to protect bees. (2) I believe that this could provide a unique source of funding for labs interested in studying and preventing the spread of Bee Blight.

What is Bee Blight then and why is it threatening bees?  As the source from above writes, Bee Blight is a poorly understood phenomenon, which is causing a change in worker bee behavior to have them leave their hives.  This decreases the overall population of bees and the effectiveness of the bee hive at producing honey and pollinating.  It is speculated that a combination of pesticides and fungicides that are currently in use are somehow poisoning the honey bees and causing them to exhibit this strange behavior.  Due to the fact that this concepts is very poorly understood, there are a multitude of efforts being made to find solutions to the problem of Bee Blight.

We as scientists at Johns Hopkins University have an opportunity to help research this problem and, in terms of funding, gain access to the resources that the ARS and other groups is providing.  Recently, a Harvard Lab was provided almost ten million dollars from the NSF to study how to make a hive of robotic bees to replace the ones found in nature. (3)  As someone whose research project is based on studying Melittin, the key component of Bee Honey Venom, and who is also an amateur entomologist, I believe that the solution might not need to be that exotic.  How many of us work on nanoparticles that are supposed to have very specific properties in very specific environments?  How many of us work on creating coatings for devices that kill off bacteria and other harmful diseases?  How many of us work in the public health department and know the impact that proper food management has on people’s health?  I believe that there are many other options, from better crops to better pesticides, that we at Hopkins have the ability to investigate and that this provides a new source of funding for our efforts.

  1. Time Magazine, August 2013
  2. Kaplan K. (2013, March 7). Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder.  ARS website. Retrieved 9/9/2013 from <http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572>
  3. Robobees Lab. (2013). Home Page. Robobees Lab Website. Retrieved 9/9/2013 from <http://robobees.seas.harvard.edu/>

By Gregory Wiedman, a graduate student from the Materials Science Department who is altering natural peptides from Bee Honey venom to improve drug delivery.