Small Focus, Large Implications

Written by April Wilkerson in the June 2009 Issue

Explaining the world of nanotechnology requires a distinct analogy. Charles Seeney has one. Picture one strand of human hair, he says. Now imagine it being sliced 10,000 times. That’s quite a bit closer to operating on a nano scale.

As president and CEO of NanoBioMagnetics, Inc. in Edmond, Seeney engages life in those tiniest of terms. His company uses the science of nanotechnology to create concepts, collaborations and, eventually, products that he hopes can change the face of medicine. Nanotechnology – the science of building things at a subatomic level – is being called the wave of the future.

“Nanotechnology is the science of using small particles to accomplish things that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Seeney says. “Nanoparticles simply exist at a size at which a product performs very differently than what we see in everyday life. A tremendous impact is possible with nanotechnology.”

Seeney and his three colleagues at NBMI have been pursuing nanotechnology concepts in Oklahoma since the company was founded in 2002. A major thrust of their work has been Organ-Assisting-Device (OAD) technologies, and how those concepts could affect diagnostic, therapeutic and treatment options in medicine.

NBMI focuses especially on ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and inflammatory breast cancer – three deadly diseases that arrive with very little, if any, advanced warning. Toward that end, NBMI created Paclitaxel, a drug delivery system that uses magnetic vectoring – a field that can be shaped to drive nanoparticles to specific sites in the body. The goal is to use nanotechnology to target tumor sites with an accuracy not available before, and not damage the healthy surrounding tissue in the treatment process.

NBMI is working on Paclitaxel in collaboration with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. A patent is pending on the tumor-specific delivery system.

“We are not physiologists or medical doctors; we are nanotechnology people. So in order to figure out whether something works in a human health application, we have to establish collaborations with experts in other areas,” Seeney says. “If we can develop something with lifesaving potential, and know we had a small part in it, that’s a great feeling. Now we’re validating the potential for what we want to do and people are coming to us for help with their technologies.”

Although NBMI’s work deals with small particles, it takes large amounts of money to keep the work going, Seeney says. A bad economy and lack of funding has hampered their ability to raise capital. But they remain undaunted.

NBMI has been fortunate to receive some funding and attention from other Oklahoma groups, including the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), Seeney says. Two years ago, NBMI was named “The Company to Watch” by the Forbes-Wolfe Nanotechnology Report.

Still, working in nanotechnology doesn’t bring about frequent discoveries. Rather, it takes years of research and collaboration to bring a concept to the product phase, Seeney says. 

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