Bioengineering Nanotechnology Initiative

from the a-nanogram-of-sugar-helps-the-nanomedicine-go-down dept.
Robert Freitas writes "NIH is issuing Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants for projects on nanotechnologies useful to biomedicine. The grants provide funding to develop near-term nanomedical applications involving primarily engineered nanomaterials and biomaterials. While the goals are admittedly modest by MNT standards — nanomedicine with a small 'n' — at least they are experimentally accessible now. The level of federal interest in this area is clearly growing. Here, NIH appears to be bending the usual federal rules a bit to help jumpstart the 'nano' sector of biomedicine. I've excerpted the most important parts of the announcement [Read More below]; the full text is at"


Release Date: December 2, 1999

PA NUMBER: PA-00-018

National Cancer Institute
National Center for Research Resources
National Eye Institute
National Human Genome Research Institute
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institute on Aging
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
National Institute of Mental Health
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Library of Medicine

Application Receipt Dates: April 1, August 1, and December 1 in the years 2000, 2001, and 2002.


This Program Announcement (PA), issued as an initiative of the trans-NIH Bioengineering Consortium (BECON), invites grant applications for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) projects on nanotechnologies useful to biomedicine. Nanotechnology is defined as the creation of functional materials, devices and systems through control of matter at the scale of 1 to 100 nanometers, and the exploitation of novel properties and phenomena at the same scale. Nanotechnology is emerging as a field critical for enabling essential breakthroughs that may have tremendous potential for affecting biomedicine. Moreover, nanotechnologies developed in the next several years may well form the foundation of significant commercial platforms.

In recognition of the nascence of this area, the duration and amounts of individual grants awarded under this PA may be greater than those routinely allowed under the SBIR program. Few small businesses possess the highly specialized resources needed for nanoengineering. Therefore, this PA encourages team approaches to research in the belief that a synergistic blend of expertise and resources may be needed to allow for stronger partnerships between the small businesses and other entities in Phase I than can be developed with the funds usually available through this program. Applications are encouraged from teams of investigators from commercial, academic and other sectors of the research community. Partners to the small businesses may play important roles in these projects and may receive appropriate support for their efforts. In addition to requiring collaboration from various sectors, it is expected that this initiative will require expertise from a variety of disciplines, including engineering, chemistry, physics, material science, engineering, and biology.

This PA will remain in effect for three years (a total of 9 receipt dates), at which time this initiative will be evaluated and a decision will be made as to whether the initiative will continue.

This PA must be read in conjunction with the Omnibus Solicitation of the Public Health Service (Omnibus Solicitation) for Phase I SBIR Grant Applications (PHS 2000-2) and the instructions for Phase II Grant Applications revised March 1998. All instructions and information in these documents also apply to applications submitted in response to this PA except where otherwise noted below….


Phase I applications in response to this PA will be funded as Phase I SBIR Grants (R43) with modifications as described below. Responsibility for the planning, direction, and execution of the proposed research will be solely that of the applicant. Applications for Phase I grants should be prepared following the directions for Phase I SBIR applications as described in the Omnibus Solicitation. The Omnibus Solicitation is available on the Internet at:

Project Period and Amount of Award

Because the duration and cost of research to develop nanotechnologies is likely to exceed that routinely awarded for SBIR grants, well-justified Phase I applications under this PA will be considered with a project period up to two years and a budget not to exceed a total cost of $400,000 (i.e., an average of $200,000 per year).


Phase II applications in response to this PA will be awarded as Phase II SBIR grants (R44) with modifications as described below. Phase II applications in response to this PA will only be accepted as competing continuations of previously funded NIH Phase I SBIR awards. The previously funded Phase I award need not have been awarded under this PA but the Phase II proposal must be a logical extension of the Phase I research.


The SBIR program consists of the following three phases:



Nearly half a century ago, the finest minds in physics disagreed as to whether it would ever be possible to manipulate individual atoms and electrons. Today, the amount of nanoscale science and engineering is exploding because of the availability of new investigative tools. These new analytical tools are capable of probing the nanometer world and will make it possible to characterize chemical and mechanical properties of cells, discover novel phenomena and processes, and provide science with a wide range of tools, materials, devices, and systems with unique characteristics. For example, complementing optical traps and tweezers, nanoscale carbon cones are ideal probe tips for scanning microscopy, and could be used to better understand the structure of biomolecules. Carbon nanotubes with bioactive tips could be used to serve as chemically-selective grips for particular, individual molecules. This capability could be used, in turn, to manipulate and observe directly interactions between individual molecules (e.g., proteins) and to detect different biological agents and pathogens thus revolutionizing the use of probe microscopy in chemistry and biology. Indeed, by using diverse tools and concepts such as scanning probe manipulators, nanolithography, logic circuits based on quantum dots, and self-assembling molecular properties, it should be possible to arrange individual atoms and molecules in space with great precision, leading to the fabrication of truly smart biosensors.

On the other hand, complex biological systems provide models from which to design components that can be brought together to form three-dimensional nanostructured systems. For example, the properties of DNA to undergo highly controlled and hierarchical assembly makes it ideal for applications in nanotechnology such as molecular sieves, or scaffolds for the assembly of molecular electronic components. Likewise, eukaryotic rotary motors based on ATPase could be employed as generic engines driving other nanodevices for purposes such as highly directed delivery of drugs or other agents.

Eventually, by coupling advances in the knowledge of living systems with the unique capabilities imparted by nanostructures and materials, it may be possible to detect and intervene in disease states using biologically inspired solutions. Integration of biocompatible materials with fluidics, optics, mechanical and electronic components, all at micro- to nano- scale, will enable development of implantable noninvasive sensing systems for the detection and prevention of disease at the earliest stages of its development. Controlled release delivery systems will make possible delivery of both conventional and new, nanostructured drugs at targeted specific sites in the body, while nanoscale chemical and topographical details on the surface of implantable materials will mediate their reaction with the body.

Nanotechnology promises scientific and commercial opportunities that are virtually unimaginable at this time.

Research Topics

Examples of general research topics that would be considered responsive to this PA are listed below. This is not meant to be an exhaustive, exclusive or delimiting set of topics, rather these merely represent illustrations of projects that would be considered relevant to this PA.

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