The UK has launched a new independent study to examine in detail the benefits and risks of nanotechnology and make sure that any necessary regulatory framework is in place early on.
Nanotechnology is of interest to the pharmaceutical industry because of its potential in drug discovery applications such as high-throughput screening, but also because it may offer improved treatment of disease through targeted drug delivery of drugs to affected cells.
Science Minister Lord Sainsbury has commissioned the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to summarise the current scientific knowledge on nanotechnology, identify applications of nanotechnology with indications of when they might be developed, consider the impact of the technology and to suggest areas where additional regulation should be considered.
Lord Sainsbury said: "Nanotechnology has the potential to create huge benefits in many areas, but we need to understand whether it raises new ethical, health and safety, or social issues which are not covered by current regulations."
The study will be chaired by Ann Dowling, professor of mechanical engineering at Cambridge University, and public views will be included in the study in the form of focus groups, a questionnaire survey and an online discussion forum to ensure that consumers' concerns are addressed.