Nanotech seems to be back on the radars of the research community. Over 100 companies in the public and private domain and 50 universities in India seem to be working hard to harness the potential of this technology. And the promise includes applications that could have an immediate impact on a wide-ranging area—diagnosis and treatment of diseases, energy storage, production and conversion, display technologies, agricultural productivity enhancement, water treatment and remediation, and opto-electronic devices.
“Nanotechnology development might be at a nascent stage globally, but is not restricted to the US and the EU anymore and is spreading across the Asia-Pacific. While R&D efforts in the West are largely restricted to design and development of cutting-edge pharmaceuticals and drug delivery systems, it is centered around devices in India,” says Peter Grutter, research director at NSERC Nano Innovation Platform, Canada. He adds, “It doesn’t surprise me that the Indian tech community is fast catching up with its peers in the realm of this cutting-edge technology. What is astounding is the pace of research and its hi-tech nature, which is being undertaken here. It could baffle many.”
Can Indian companies engaged in nanotech research gain access to the much-required funds by developing synergies with their counterparts in the US, Canada, Japan or countries in the EU? Globally, industry and governments now spend over $10 billion on nanotech R&D per annum. Bullish on the prospects, the Indian industry is vying to attract this funding. It is also seeking the creation of a national nanotechnology development fund of $2 billion on the lines of the US and EU funding, along with a comprehensive government policy for the sector.
A look at some of the success stories, which are close to commercialisation in India: Biotech major Bharat Biotech has developed the country’s first locally manufactured nano-biotech product—a prescription topical emulsion for oestrogen therapy; Dabur Research Foundation has developed Nanoxel, a nanoparticle-based drug delivery system for cancer treatment.
Another technology that has been transferred by the University of Delhi to Panacea Biotech uses nanoparticles for the delivery of drugs to the eye. The process involves the use of nanoparticles to encapsulate non-steroidal drugs, improving the drug’s bioavailability on the cornea surface.
Healthcare is clearly one of the biggest beneficiaries, but not alone. Nanotech is finding applications in water treatment and energy storage. For instance, scientists from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi have devised a simple method to produce carbon nanotube filters that efficiently