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Advanced MEMS/NEMS Processing for Improved Drug Delivery

R. Goodall
Nano Medical Systems, Inc., US

Keywords: MEMS


Quality of life is defined by many factors, but none so intimate and immediate as our health. It is inevitable that defects, disease, damage, and decline of our biological systems will occur, and modern medicine has developed an arsenal of increasingly sophisticated drugs and biological molecules to treat these, resulting in a continuous improvement in quality of life. However, the chemo-psychological balance of our systems can be significantly disrupted by the treatments themselves. Challenges of conventional drug delivery include: lowered efficacy and side-effects from the ups and downs of pills and injections; non-personalized dosing, duration, and behavior; poor compliance with treatments that are lifestyle invasive and produce physical or emotional discomfort; and ultimately higher healthcare costs to society. Significant attention has been given to “nano” in drug delivery, primarily in the form of nanoparticles of various sizes, materials, and function. The benefits of nanoparticle sizes being of the dimension of intracellular structures will be transformative, but a long regulatory pathway to assured safety will be required. On the other hand, integrated devices with micro- and nano-scale function do not pose new regulatory risks, but can also bring about transformations in drug delivery. The nanochannel has dimensions commensurate with biological molecules, and new physical behaviors are induced when these interact. Research has demonstrated that nanochannels offer constrained release to drug molecules when the nanochannel dimension is near the size of the molecule, enabling constant delivery over a long period. As an extension, a nanofluidic chip built with integrated micro scale wiring enables modulation of molecule transport within the device, paving the way to artificial glands. There are significant challenges in bringing these basic nano-functional units to practical application, including MEMS and NEMS fabrication technology, bio-robust materials for in-body use, and massively parallel scale-up. Historically, MEMS arose on the oldest available equipment, but increasingly the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing systems are being used to create revolutionary devices. Today, long-term implanted capsules are delivering therapeutic dose levels in animal studies using chips with nanochannel heights of 3nm and densities of 5,000,000/cm2. Quality of life improvements should be available to everyone, whatever their particular place in society and world. For this vision to come to pass in healthcare, low-cost, sophisticated treatment systems must evolve out of yesterday’s simple therapeutic concepts. Leading-edge semiconductor processing converging with nanotechnology and biotechnology can lead the way.
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