Imagine if doctors could find and eliminate cancer cells before a tumor develops, implant a pump the size of a molecule to deliver medication exactly where it is needed in a patient's body, or remove the broken part of a cell and replace it with a tiny biological machine. Welcome to the possibilities of nanomedicine, according to the National Institutes of Health's Web site.
Nanomedicine is medical diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment at the molecular level to cure disease or repair damaged tissues. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, too small to be seen with a conventional laboratory microscope. So nanotechnology could potentially be used to develop nanoscale medical devices for a range of uses at the molecular level, as described above.
The field is developing so rapidly that a group of scientists formed an academy, launched a journal, and scheduled a meeting.
The American Academy of Nanomedicine's First Annual Scientific Meeting will be held August 15 to 16 — just five months after the Academy was established and the first issue of its journal, Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, was published. The Academy is so new that the meeting registration form was posted at its Web site (www.nanomedacademy.org) almost as soon as the membership application. Member recruitment, exhibit sales, and attendee registration are all taking place simultaneously.
Despite the challenges of launching a peer-reviewed medical journal, a professional association, and a scientific meeting in rapid succession, organizers think the timing is just right for the emerging field of nanomedicine.
“We are breaking new ground in nanomedicine. The long-term goal for the Academy is to help develop strong research teams that combine medical and engineering science. And the meeting will bring people together to form those collaborations,” says Chiming Wei, MD, PhD, director of the Cardiothoracic-Renal Molecular Research Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Wei chairs the steering committee spearheading the launch of the Academy and is also editor-in-chief of the journal.
“Our association will provide the link between the academic research community and the business community in the field of nanomedicine, and help foster better global communication,” says Wei. “The biggest challenge is how better to combine medical and nonmedical research, and also to combine basic science and clinical science.”
Because nanomedicine is based on nanotechnology, it includes a broader range of professionals than most medical specialties or subspecialties. Academy membership and meeting attendees will include clinical investigators, scientists, engineers, molecular and cell biologists, immunologists, chemists, mathematicians, physicians, and other healthcare professionals.
STEP 1: The Journal
Even before the Academy was created or the meeting conceived, Wei and his team decided they needed a journal. “The first step in bringing these various disciplines together was to create a journal to publish their wide-ranging research,” says Wei. “Launching the journal provides credibility to the organization — it's easier to get people to join the Academy once they've read the journal.”
Wei and his group approached Elsevier, a scientific, technical, and medical publisher, to develop the journal. “There's a tremendous amount of research going on in the field of nanoscale applications for medicine,” says Cynthia L. Baudendistel, executive publisher in Elsevier's St. Louis, Mo., office and chair of the Academy's corporate advisory board. “Looking around at what was being done in nanomedicine and the increased importance being placed on the field by the National Institutes of Health, for example, we felt that there wasn't a good forum for these papers to be published in one place,” she says. “They're certainly being published in respected journals, but those journals are spread out across the disciplines. This is a way to bring the disciplines together.” The resulting international peer-reviewed quarterly journal features basic, clinical, and engineering research in nanomedicine.
STEP 2: The Academy
The team then realized a journal was just the beginning. “As we began formulating the journal and talking about the needs of the research community, it became apparent that there was no existing organization that served as a forum for those researchers,” says Baudendistel.
Next, the group selected well-known association management firm SmithBucklin to create the Academy and manage the annual meeting. For now, the Academy is funded in part by a grant from Elsevier, and it is also supported by SmithBucklin. “Future funding sources could be government, companies, and research institutes,” says Wei.
The first step in building an organization is defining its constituency, says Michael Olson, executive vice president in SmithBucklin's Washington, D.C., office where the Academy is now headquartered. The journal's 82-member editorial board has served as the first source of Academy members, says Wei. “Each professor is a primary investigator working with a group of other investigators, and all of them are potential Academy members.”
SmithBucklin is also promoting Academy membership and meeting attendance via the steering committee — which includes one member from the National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office of the Executive Office of the President of the United States — and marketing the meeting to engineering and biotechnology groups, as well as other medical associations with subspecialty sections in nanomedicine.
STEP 3: The Meeting
“Since the Academy just started recruiting members in May, our biggest challenge is the short time frame,” says Olson. “We're compressing a normal 12 to 18-month meeting-planning time frame into 90 days.”
Nevertheless, organizers are optimistic. An estimated 400 participants are expected to attend the first annual meeting at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Campus. “We're marketing the meeting through ads in the journal, direct-mail invitations, and broadcast e-mails. We've also sent thousands of postcards advertising the Academy and the meeting and directing people to the Web site,” says Karen R. Hasson, the Academy's executive director, who has been with SmithBucklin for 12 years. “We're notifying nanocenters at leading universities around the world, and the meeting is expected to draw international attendance.”
Organizers are offering corporate support and exhibiting opportunities. Potential exhibitors include publishers as well as medical device and pharmaceutical companies. Exhibit sales were just starting as of MM's press time, but Hasson anticipates having 20 to 30 booths the first year. Simultaneously recruiting members for the Academy and attendees, exhibitors, and corporate supporters for the meeting is a challenge. “Yet the synergy between the Academy, the journal, and the meeting adds to what we have to offer,” says Hasson. “When we make contacts, we can say: ‘Not only do we have a scientific journal and a professional Academy, we have a scientific meeting coming up soon, so you'll have a chance to present your research.’”
Martha Collins is an Austin, Texas — based freelance writer/editor who coversand conventions.
Nanomedicine — a Growth Industry
The National Institutes of Health, which launched its NIH Nanomedicine Roadmap Initiative in 2003 (nihroadmap.nih.gov/nanomedicine), is establishing Nanomedicine Development Centers, staffed by highly multidisciplinary scientific teams, including biologists, physicians, mathematicians, engineers, and computer scientists. Their work is expected to lead to the development of tools that will be used to build miniature devices for diagnostic purposes, such as scanning for infectious agents or metabolic imbalances, as well as devices that can destroy infections or repair cells. In the United States, annual federal funding for nanotechnology research and development has grown from $500 million in 2002 to nearly $1 billion in the 2005 budget. And worldwide revenue from biomedical nanoscale devices is predicted by private sector analysts to grow 35 percent per year through 2007, according to a report in the March 2005 issue of Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.