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Nobel prize winner believes nanorobots treating diseases will appear in 20 years

October 19, 2016, 8:25 UTC+3 NEW YORK

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 to Stoddart and his two colleagues "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines"

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Chemist Fraser Stoddart

Chemist Fraser Stoddart

© AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

NEW YORK, October 18. /TASS/. Chemist Fraser Stoddart, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year, told TASS he hopes humankind will be able to reach such a level of technological development that will make it possible to create tiny robots to treat diseases within the next 20 years.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on October 5 awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 to Stoddart and his two colleagues Jean-Pierre Sauvage from University of Strasbourg, France and Bernard L. Feringa from University of Groningen, the Netherlands, "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines".

Practical use

Speaking about what practical use his studies will find, Stoddart said: "I think… this is far down the road before it’s going to be in industry and in production. I think this prize this year… is for fundamental science and I think on that note we should rejoice."

"But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we have the right to just do fundamental work and no more, we have to find out what it might lead to," he said.

"In my own case, we’ve invested quite a lot of work and time into molecular electronics with a modicum of success and also into drug delivery systems," the scientist said.

"These are certainly two areas that I think can be continued by us, revisited by others. And actually there’s a lot more hope there in the application sense that the younger members of the community can come up with so in this regard I have a book coming out in about a month’s time called ‘The Nature of the Mechanical Bond: from Molecules to Machines’," he said.

"The last chapter is on molecular switches, molecular motors and molecular machines," Stoddart said. "I’m just hoping that it can bring in a whole new army of young chemists and physicists to exploit this new physical bond. "I’ve talked… about the issue of having it translated into several languages, including Russian, and obviously Chinese and Spanish."

When will nanorobots be created?

Commenting on numerous publications that say his research will help create nanorobots capable of curing oncological and other diseases, the scientist stated: "I think some of this is still science fiction. You know, I lost my own wife from breast cancer in 2004, 12 years ago."

"I was the person who was beside her for 12 years of her life as she fought this disease, it was one-fifth of her life and one-third of our married life, so this has left a bit of a scar on me to the extent that I hope I’m not being too pessimistic, but I really do feel that the disease is different in every individual," he said.

"And I think… the hunt for the robot that will miraculously deal with cancer in all forms, in all different ages is probably not the way" to deal with the disease, Stoddart said.

"I think a much more sophisticated approach has to be thought true, and I’m not yet super confident that we are close to the dream scenario. I wish we were," he said.

At the same time, the chemist said: "Maybe these new molecular machines are being made more and more sophisticated and also targeting the tumor cells rather than just being a way of packaging up the drug to be delivered. Yes, I could see great things happening, but I’m not sure about the time scale."

He did not rule out that such machines will be manufactured over the next 20 years.

"I think that is possible, but who am I to say that with any certainty?" Stoddart said. "I think moving away from that one particular application, I think what will see in 20 years will surprise us, there’ll be things we have not thought of, because I think a whole band of new minds will come into this area."

"I just hope in the next 20 years people’s minds are going to be blown away by what this part of molecular technology will be able to do," he said.

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