As advances in nanotechnology continue across the globe, it seems likely that Malaysia will be one region that’s leading the charge.

Nanotechnology is a bright cloud on the digital health horizon that promises an array of efficiencies and optimized outcomes within precision medicine. There are a variety of nanotechnology initiatives around the globe, and Malaysia is one country that has been leading the way.

History and Vision

In October of 2009, during a meeting of Malaysia’s National Innovation Council, nanotechnology was identified as one of the new growth engines for the country’s New Economic Model (NEM)—which led to the formation of the National Nanotechnology Directorate (NND) in 2010, under the auspices of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).

These efforts led to a recognition of the need for a nanotechnology commercialization agency—and NanoMalaysia Berhad was the result. Incorporated in 2011, the organization functions in alignment with Agensi Inovasi Malaysia’s (AIM) initiatives, and under the auspices of MOSTI as a business entity that focuses various commercialization activities, including:

  • Commercialization of Nanotechnology Research and Development
  • Industrialization of Nanotechnology
  • Facilitation of Investments in Nanotechnology
  • Human Capital Development in Nanotechnology

Its focus is to “jumpstart” nanotechnology development in four key sectors:

  • Food and Agriculture
  • Energy and Environment
  • Wellness, Medical and Healthcare
  • Electronics, Devices and Systems

Nanotechnology on Malaysia’s Healthcare Landscape

Nanotechnology is “science, engineering and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers…the study and application of extremely small things and can be used across all the other science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, material sciences and engineering.”

As in other regions of the world, one healthcare focus for nanotechnology in Malaysia relates to the provision of cancer treatments with a targeted drug delivery approach. According to NanoMalaysia Bhd chief executive officer, Dr. Rezal Khairi Ahmad, cancer-detecting gold nanoparticles carrying anticancer drugs could be delivered specifically to cancer cells, decreasing side effects to patients.

“Nanotechnology is the next level of technology, and everything that you will be experiencing in the next five or 10 years will be nanotech-based products.”

Partnering with IBM for Results

Effective healthcare partnerships are key to getting results—a fact that NanoMalaysia recognizes as well, in order to develop innovative products and nanomedicine experts in the country. It’s a fact highlighted by Pete Read, CEO at Global Growth Markets, when providing his perspectives for nuviun:

"Nanotechnology is a field Malaysia has been established in for more than a decade, helping to progress the country's healthcare industry towards more efficient drug delivery and cancer treatments. In an effort to develop local products and local expertise, IBM Research and NanoMalaysia have embarked on a joint research programme to develop nanogel star polymer-based-materials that will provide a foundation for better antimicrobial coatings and drug delivery applications."

Under the agreement, IBM Research will also provide training for Malaysian scientists at its Alamaden Research Center in the U.S. The research and development program partnership is set to last three years, with focus areas divided into three 12-month phases. Most of the costs are being funded by Malaysia’s Ministry of Education with coordination by NanoMalaysia.

Up to 30 researchers will participate in six month rotations at IBM’s Alamaden facility in an exchange program geared toward increasing skills, a first-hand knowledge of the international market and research areas critical to industrial need and technology advancements in Malaysia.

As with the rest of the world, chronic disease is an issue for Malaysia as well, and NanoMalaysia Bhd intends to use these drug delivery systems to fight cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity—as well as in infection control programs.

As advances in nanotechnology continue across the globe, it seems likely that Malaysia will be one region that’s leading the charge. With predictions that the global drug delivery market will hit USD175 billion by 2016, there will be lots of company along the way.