Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory leverages growing industry interest in the technology

The Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory is working with industry partners to bolster the use of nanotechnology in drug development and delivery as the interest in the promising technology expands.

“Pharma has initially been hesitant to get into nano because it’s too much risk versus reward,” said Jeffrey D. Clogston, Ph.D., the Physicochemical Characterization Section Head in the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. “We’ve seen more and more industries getting into it and using it.”

Because nanotechnology is relatively new, Clogston said pharmaceutical industries tend to shy away from it since researchers don’t yet know for certain the long-term toxicity effects. However, its potential in the cancer field is full of potential as nanotechnology can deliver chemotherapeutics in a targeted manner, with hopefully minimal side effects, and diverse applications, he said.

“As the field emerges, with more people using it, and characterizing it properly, the more becomes known about nanotechnology and thus the risk becomes less,” Clogston said.

Clogston has played a prominent role in the efforts to increase understanding and awareness of nanotechnology. Over the last year he worked with the International Consortium for Innovation and Quality in Pharmaceutical Development (IQ) to create its Nanotechnology Working Group. The IQ Consortium is comprised of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies striving to advance science and technology.

“Because I’m not in industry but at the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory, I have more exposure to different nanotechnology platforms than most industry people do,” Clogston said. “I fill in the gap for them in that way.”

Clogston has worked in the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory for the past 15 years. He said he has seen a shift in the last five years as the drug development industry looks more favorably on  nanotechnology. The creation of this working group is one example of the expanding interest in nanotechnology.

Portrait photo
Jeffrey D. Clogston, Ph.D.

A champion of nanotechnology

In October, Clogston received recognition from the IQ Consortium for his contributions to its Nanotechnology Working Group.

Patrick Lim Soo, Ph.D., from Pfizer Inc. heads the IQ Consortium’s Nanotechnology Working Group. He said each working group can bring in outside expertise and he immediately thought of Clogston since they’ve collaborated before.

“Jeff is a recognized subject matter expert in nanomedicine analytical characterization,” Lim Soo said. “He is a great collaborator, very knowledgeable and easy to work with.”

Since there was no prior nano-focused industry consortium to address challenges specific to developing nanotechnologies, Lim Soo said he wanted to form the group to collaborate with member companies. Lim Soo said Clogston served as a sounding board for him as he presented the proposal to the Drug Product Leadership Group in the IQ Consortium.

“To this day we still haven’t met in person, but he is someone who  I regularly turn to if I need help or assistance with nanomedicine characterization because he is an expert and always willing to provide guidance,” Lim Soo said.

More opportunities to get involved

More than 10 companies are part of the IQ Consortium Nanotechnology Working Group, as more people with a nanotechnology background enter industry, Clogston said. Academia has always been engaged in  nanotechnology, but he said industry is now representing most of the laboratory’s clientele.

“I have a strong interest in this field, and I want to see where it’s going and heading,” Clogston said. “I think in this way I can help provide guidance in where industries should look.”

As the field expands, so do opportunities for newcomers to nanotechnology. Clogston said there are opportunities to join a team at the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory and recommends young scientists gain an array of skills to be competitive. For example, he always encourages his staff to go beyond his section’s chemistry focus and explore the immunology and toxicology sections within the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory.

“Get your hands on everything,” Clogston said. “The way to be aggressive is to just learn everything.”