Nano-Bio-Genesis: Tracing the rise of nanotechnology and nanobiotechnology as 'big science'
Abstract Nanotechnology research has lately been of intense interest because of its perceived potential for many diverse fields of science. Nanotechnology's tools have found application in diverse fields, from biology to device physics. By the 1990s, there was a concerted effort in the United States to develop a national initiative to promote such research. The success of this effort led to a significant influx of resources and interest in nanotechnology and nanobiotechnology and to the establishment of centralized research programs and facilities. Further government initiatives (at federal, state, and local levels) have firmly cemented these disciplines as 'big science,' with efforts increasingly concentrated at select laboratories and centers. In many respects, these trends mirror certain changes in academic science over the past twenty years, with a greater emphasis on applied science and research that can be more directly utilized for commercial applications. We also compare the National Nanotechnology Initiative and its successors to the Human Genome Project, another large-scale, government funded initiative. These precedents made acceptance of shifts in nanotechnology easier for researchers to accept, as they followed trends already established within most fields of science. Finally, these trends are examined in the design of technologies for detection and treatment of cancer, through the Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer initiative of the National Cancer Institute. Federal funding of these nanotechnology initiatives has allowed for expansion into diverse fields and the impetus for expanding the scope of research of several fields, especially biomedicine, though the ultimate utility and impact of all these efforts remains to be seen.