The World Technology Awards
Wednesday 08 Aug 2001...
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World Technology Awards in association with The Economist and Booz.Allen & Hamilton
1999 Award Finalist

World Technology Award for Materials


Describe the short and long-term goals of your work.
Many books on "21st century medicine" describe technologies that are likely to be commonplace, even obsolete, by 2020. In contrast, while the earliest commercial applications of molecular nanorobotics in medicine may not emerge until 2010-2020, the development of the most powerful nanomedical technologies will likely require the rest of the 21st century to unfold. Thus, nanomedicine truly is the "medicine of the 21st century."

Molecular nanotechnology has been defined as the three-dimensional positional control of molecular structure to create materials and devices to molecular precision. The human body is comprised of molecules, hence the availability of molecular nanotechnology will permit dramatic progress in human medical services. More than just an extension of "molecular medicine," nanomedicine will employ molecular machine systems to address medical problems, and will use molecular knowledge to maintain and improve human health at the molecular scale. Nanomedicine will have extraordinary and far-reaching implications for the medical profession, for the definition of disease, for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions including aging, for our very personal relationships with our own bodies, and ultimately for the improvement and extension of natural human biological structure and function.

The first molecular assemblers may be able to build only very simple nanomechanical systems, so the earliest functional nanomachines may be laboratory curiosities. As assembler technology slowly improves, progressively more complex and capable nanomachines will be manufactured in vastly larger numbers. My new book, NANOMEDICINE, primarily investigates the rational design and operation of these more complex and capable nanomachines. It argues that cubic centimeter quantities (e.g. ~1 trillion micron-sized nanorobots per dose) will not be unreasonably expensive to manufacture and thus can be therapeutically deployed routinely by future doctors.

NANOMEDICINE will be published in three Volumes over the course of the next several years by Landes Bioscience. Volume I, published in 1999, analyzes the theoretical basic capabilities of medical nanorobots. It is intended for an audience of cutting-edge technical and professional people who are seriously interested in the ultimate future of medical technology -- particularly physical scientists, chemists, biochemists, and biomedical engineers engaged in basic research, and also college or graduate students who are still charting their career paths in biomedical science or engineering. The second Volume in the technical trilogy, due out in 2002, addresses medical nanorobot control, biocompatibility and safety issues, and the design of generic nanomedical component devices and systems. Volume III, due in 2005, will describe specific nanomedical treatments and procedures from a clinical perspective, speaking directly to physicians. A popular book on nanomedicine will follow!!!

What person in the world alive today would you most like to meet and why?
I would especially like to meet any person who has a medical background and understands the importance of molecular nanotechnology to the future of medicine, and is ready to commit their knowledge, time, or resources to help make this exciting future happen within our lifetimes.

What is the most important "serendipitous" encounter of a new idea, new person, new opportunity in your career?
In early 1994, I chanced across a copy of Drexler's second book, Unbounding the Future (1991), which basically inspired me to drop what I was doing and study molecular nanotechnology more closely. I soon found myself researching nanomedicine full time. Truly a career-changing event!

What are the 3-5 most useful and interesting websites for your work that visitors would find helpful in understanding what your field is about?

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