Nanotech and Development

More grumbling about the promise of nanotech emerges from the latest Woodrow Wilson seminar “Using Nanotechnology to Improve Health Care in Developing Countries.

The basic beef seems to be that while nanotechnology (and presumably traditional pharmaceuticals) could produce “new drugs for malaria, dengue fever and other diseases that disproportionately affect people in developing countries” they probably won’t, for reasons that are primarily financial.

But is this a really fair assessment? There are numerous technologies that will have a major impact on the developing world, but as with any capital intensive R&D from semiconductors to biotechnology, businesses follow the money and applications may then trickle down to the developing world, eventually. It is an area we have been discussing since 2003, although progress is painfully slow.

DSM FilterThe Meridian Institute have a service “Nanotechnology & Development News” which highlights a lot of problems, and more importantly solutions that nanotech can engender. This is also an area where governments in the developed world can make a difference by funding technologies and supporting corporate initiatives such as DSM’s Water4Life project.

Nanotechnologies will make a difference to the developing world, and hopefully a positive one, but the history of nanotech gives a salutary lesson – it won’t happen overnight.

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