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It’s a small world. How often have we heard that expression? At the nanoscale, small takes on an entirely new meaning, especially for this group of leaders who have made large investments of varying proportions. Nanotechnology funding in research and development is huge, with approximately $982 million requested for federal investment in nanoscale science, engineering and technology for fiscal year 2005. Venture capital investment in tiny technologies is robust. Industry reports indicate that more than $2 billion has been invested in nanotechnology by venture capital firms since 1997. Couple these figures with a few of the well-respected principals advancing nanotechnology, and that amounts to a big return on innovation and society’s future well-being. Following is a brief conversation with six of the nation’s leaders in nanotechnology and their take on its implications for the legal profession. THE NOBEL LAUREATE Richard E. Smalley, Ph.D., shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of carbon 60 — called buckminsterfullerene or buckyballs — made wherever carbon condenses. This discovery led to the development of carbon nanotubes, used today in many nanotechnology developments. At Rice University in Texas since 1976, Smalley helped found the Rice Quantum Institute, serving as chairman for 10 years. He was named to the Gene and Norman Hackerman Chair in Chemistry, became a professor in the Department of Physics, and was appointed director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology. In addition to receiving numerous honorary doctoral degrees and awards, and serving on several advisory boards and writing many papers, Smalley is one of the most cited scientists in nanotechnology research. Q: What entices you about nanotechnology? A: How powerfully that one word describes the frontier of science, in particular the physical sciences and engineering. It is an overarching technology that includes a lot of technologies at the nanometer stage that already exist today. It is simply the art and science of building stuff that does stuff on the nanometer scale. All the machinery of life itself inside a living cell is a nanotechnology made up of atoms that serve a particular function. When you control the atoms, you control just about everything. Q: What is a buckyball and its relationship to the carbon nanotube? A: A buckyball is a molecule comprised of approximately 60 atoms of carbon. It is the structure of a soccer ball one nanometer in diameter. When carbon condenses by itself, the result is a buckyball. If it condenses when there is a small vapor of nickel or cobalt, for example, you trick the carbon into making tubes, with a strength between 30 and 100 times stronger than steel. Q: If you had a crystal buckyball, what might be some nano-projections? A: I believe the biggest breakthroughs on the nanometer scale will be in the critical areas of energy, human health and information technology. THE NANO GURU Mihail C. Roco, Ph.D., is the architect behind the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), the federal government’s long-term investment in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology initiated in 2001. Roco is senior advisor for nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation and chairman of the U.S. National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology, the coordinating body of the NNI. Author of hundreds of scientific and engineering articles, books, and manuals, he has received several patents, as well as numerous awards for academic, technological and science policy achievements. Roco was named the 2004 Nanotechnology Policy Leader by Scientific American. Q: What are the goals of the NNI? A: To develop and implement a long-term vision at the national level for nanotechnology, focusing on four goals: maintaining a world-class research and development program; facilitating the technology transfer of products from research laboratory to market; developing educational resources and a skilled workforce; and supporting the responsible development of nanotechnology. Q: On a global scale, how does the NNI compare with other countries? A: The NNI spends about 25 percent of global government investments, with the United States accounting for approximately 50 percent of highly cited papers. We have significant interactions with more than 25 countries. Q: What would you advise the legal community regarding the advance of nanotechnology? A: We are in the ‘Age of innovation.’ Society is changing not only through nanotechnology, but in connection with converging technologies integrated at the nanoscale, impacting policies about investments, laws, and education. The legal system is important to guard personal freedom of decision and the right of each individual to have access to the best information in a society expected to become more complex because of the rapid advance of these technologies. THE BUSINESS EXECUTIVE James R. Von Ehr II is the founder and chairman of Zyvex Corp., the first molecular nanotechnology development company. He contributed $3.5 million to establish the NanoTech Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas; co-founded the Texas Nanotechnology Initiative; has been the recipient of numerous entrepreneurial awards; serves on several nanotechnology boards; has written various publications; holds several patents; has testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act; and was present when President George W. Bush signed the bill into law in 2003. Q: What is the mission of Zyvex? A: To develop the technology to manufacture atomically precise, affordable and adaptable tools that enable nano-manipulation; materials for molecular engineering; and structures to help build the next generation of machines. Q: In your testimony to the Senate committee, you stated: “Our most competitive industries are also our least regulated — semiconductors, personal computers, software, and the Internet.” Do you believe nanotechnology should be regulated? A: I believe in markets. Sometimes you have to regulate where there is a market failure. There is no market failure in nanotechnology. It’s too early to regulate. If we prematurely regulate nanotechnology, we shut down our ability to innovate and develop the next industrial revolution. Q: The federal government funds studies on the societal implications of nanotechnology. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently created Category 977 specifically for nanotechnology. What, in your belief, are some anticipated legal implications of nanotechnology? A: Patents concern me greatly, particularly in nanotubes. There are so many patents being issued. I fear that we are setting ourselves up for many years of IP lawsuits. This will have a chilling effect on innovation. THE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR Michael J. Heller, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Electrical and Computing Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He also co-founded three companies — Nanogen Inc., Nanotronics Inc., and Integrated DNA Technologies — and holds more than 30 patents. His initial exploratory research efforts within Nanotronics, subsequently renamed Nanogen, were carried out with the intent of developing novel DNA-based technologies for biomedical and nanotechnology applications. Nanogen has since commercialized its microelectronic DNA chip technology — the NanoChip Electronic Microarrays and the NanoChip Molecular Biology Workstation — used to understand the correlation between genetic variation and disease, and for human molecular identification in forensics. Since then, it has introduced the NanoChip 400, its second generation instrument. Q: What makes Nanogen so successful? A: At point of entry, Nanogen was lucky. A lot of IP and technology was in place and we were wise enough to protect it and position ourselves to capitalize on it. The underlying technology crossed into other areas and we nurtured that. Patience, positioning, synergy between the market and the technology, and perception helped us to succeed. Q: Nanogen has agreed to provide you with $300,000 of funding over a two-year period to support your research. What will be its focus? A: Exploring further use of electric field-based technology for nanofabrication and assembly of nanostructures as well as the integration of nanostructures with other devices. My work focuses on discovering synergies between top-down and bottom-up processes in order to develop new nanomanufacturing techniques. Q: What would you predict to be the future benefits of nanotechnology? A: An evolutionary progression will be seen in materials, electronics, and the biomedical area of nanotechnology. Impact also will be seen in the area of cancer and therapeutic diagnostics, as well as energy, and the making of new structures through carbon nanotubes. Attorneys will need to be ready to address issues related to predisposition to diseases and drug toxicity due to human diversity. Douglas W. Jamison leads New York-based Harris & Harris Group, Inc., a publicly traded venture capital company listed on NASDAQ as TINY. Harris & Harris focuses solely in making initial investments in “tiny” technologies, which it defines as nanotechnology, microsystems, and microelectromechanical systems. They are convinced that tiny technology entities are the next frontier for capital formation and company building and that the revolutionary breakthroughs occurring at the nanoscale have the ability to transform future products as we know them today. Q: What is not nanotechnology? A: Nanotechnology is not a single scientific discipline, investment, nor market space, but rather a collection of enabling and potentially disruptive technologies. Q: What makes nanotechnology different from previous innovations? A: It makes it difficult to start a lab in a garage. There is a lot of capital investment at the research level. Nanotechnology is very rigorous science protected by rigorous patents. It is about new compositions of matter that have different material characteristics because of their size. It will redefine how we think about governing future industries. The courts and legal system need to be educated to understand this difficult and complex science. Manish Mehta, Ph.D., is director of collaboration programs at the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), a Michigan-based not-for-profit membership group. It is the nation’s largest cross-industry research and development consortium devoted exclusively to manufacturing technologies, processes, and practices. Commissioned by the National Science Foundation, the NCMS recently published the nation’s first aggregate survey of the emerging nanomanufacturing industry. Q: What were the objectives and methodologies used to conduct the survey? A: The objective of the survey was to evaluate key aggregate trends and concerns via a targeted questionnaire offering a ‘snapshot’ of manufacturing activities at the nanoscale. Q: In which targeted industries did you find nanotechnology developments? A: The top end users are electronics; coatings; devices and sensors; automotive applications; raw materials supply; biotechnology and biomedical; and polymers and petrochemicals. Q: What top challenges face the nanomanufacturing industry today? A: The top industry concerns are: public perception that nanotechnology products are far from commercialization; insufficient investment capital; intellectual property issues impeding commercialization progress; process scalability; high cost of processing; and that the societal benefits of nanotechnology are not yet recognized. The implications of nanoscale products need to be recognized because liability could extend back to the manufacturing process. Sonia E. Miller, an attorney in private practice in New York and the District of Columbia, is the founder and president of the Converging Technologies Bar Association.

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