Special focus: Governance of Nanobiotechnology

Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 1345-1371

First online:

Recommendations for oversight of nanobiotechnology: dynamic oversight for complex and convergent technology

  • Gurumurthy RamachandranAffiliated withDivision of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota Email author 
  • , Susan M. WolfAffiliated withConsortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences; Law School; Medical School; Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota
  • , Jordan ParadiseAffiliated withLaw School, Seton Hall University
  • , Jennifer KuzmaAffiliated withHumphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
  • , Ralph HallAffiliated withLaw School, University of Minnesota
  • , Efrosini KokkoliAffiliated withDepartment of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota
  • , Leili FatehiAffiliated withConsortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences; Law School, University of Minnesota

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Federal oversight of nanobiotechnology in the U.S. has been fragmented and incremental. The prevailing approach has been to use existing laws and other administrative mechanisms for oversight. However, this “stay-the-course” approach will be inadequate for such a complex and convergent technology and may indeed undermine its promise. The technology demands a new, more dynamic approach to oversight. The authors are proposing a new oversight framework with three essential features: (a) the oversight trajectory needs to be able to move dynamically between “soft” and “hard” approaches as information and nano-products evolve; (b) it needs to integrate inputs from all stakeholders, with strong public engagement in decision-making to assure adequate analysis and transparency; and (c) it should include an overarching coordinating entity to assure strong inter-agency coordination and communication that can meet the challenge posed by the convergent nature of nanobiotechnology. The proposed framework arises from a detailed case analysis of several key oversight regimes relevant to nanobiotechnology and is informed by inputs from experts in academia, industry, NGOs, and government.


Nanobiotechnology Dynamic oversight Public engagement Oversight framework Governance