Further supplementary memorandum by Medical
Thank you for the opportunity to present the
MRC's work relevant to nanotechnology and food to the Select Committee.
This response addresses issues raised during the evidence session
and provides an update on several matters.
This question was raised during the evidence
session, and has been addressed in a separate response from BBSRC,
to which the MRC contributed. To summarise, cross-placental transfer
of nanoparticles is the subject of debate in the research community.
There is limited data on this matter, but an unpublished (and
therefore not peer-reviewed) study showing that transfer may occur
in rats. There are probably a variety of routes of access, as
with gut absorption, and different particles may behave in different
ways. On balance, it is possible that some nanoparticles can cross
from mother to foetus, but this has yet to be formally shown.
THE UK: WORLDWIDE
The select committee asked how the United Kingdom's
research effort rated compared to other countries, and at the
time we could not give an assessment. The EMERGIMANO report which
we referred to in the evidence session, has now been released
CB0409_7911_FRP.pdf provides information on the relative
activity in environment, health and safety research on nanomaterials
and nanotechnology in countries worldwide. The United Kingdom
was found to conduct l5 per cent of studies, placing it second
behind the USA. Additionally, a high number of studies had been
completed (third, behind the USA and Canada), suggesting a leading
position in the field.
While these findings are encouraging for United
Kingdom nanotechnology/nanotoxicology research, there is no doubt
that there remain significant gaps in our knowledge, and the report
highlights these well. The report covers all research funded by
Research Councils (or their equivalents) and by agencies closer
to policy making needs and regulation. We expect that combined
efforts of several funders will continue to be needed, to cover
the gaps across basic and applied, ideas-led and needs-led. The
MRC, in combination with the other Research Councils, will play
an important role in generating the scientific knowledge required
to fill these gaps. Regulators, particularly the Food Standards
Agency, DEFRA and the MHRA, will have an equally important function,
using basic research findings to create an appropriate and balanced
legislative environment for nanotechnology and food.
MRC HIGHLIGHT NOTICE:
The highlight notice in nanotoxicology, which
was first released in March 2007, is at Annex 1, and on the MRC
This is currently the second version of the
notice, with further revisions currently under consideration.
Revisions will include a focus on "oral route" nanotoxicology,
as discussed in the evidence session.
Highlight notices are one of several mechanisms
available to the MRC to increase funding in a particular scientific
area. Although there is no specific funding associated exclusively
with an area, highlight notices should not be considered inferior
to other mechanisms; since they are not time-limited, it is often
possible to do more through a highlight notice than other options.
They also offer the potential for gradual revision as the scientific
landscape changes, and as such offer an adaptable long-term commitment
to an area. Our past experience has shown them to be highly effective
in increasing the funding associated with the area in question.
THE MRC COLLABORATIVE
Since the evidence session, this programme of
research (led by Dr Jonathan Powell) has been scientifically reviewed
by the MRC. It was found to be of high quality, and the reporting
subcommittee recommended its continued support.
Annex 1MRC Highlight Notice in Nanotoxicology.