ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Hoping to turn the science of the extremely small into a huge payoff down the road, Maryland lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to create a fund to coordinate efforts to develop what's known as nano-biotechnology.
It's a big word for something very, very small. Nanotechnology involves developing new products by changing or creating components at the atomic and molecular level. At that scale, materials are measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter.
The idea behind nano-biotechnology is to apply that science to biology to produce new methods of drug delivery and other innovative products.
Lawmakers are hoping to capitalize on Maryland's proximity to leading research institutes and the nation's capital to attract innovative businesses and high-tech jobs to the state.
''This industry is poised to be an economic blockbuster for Maryland,'' said Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, who is a bill sponsor.
During these tough fiscal times, however, a microscope may be needed to find extra money in the state budget.
Lawmakers are not mandating a specific amount to go into the fund if the bill passes. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said it could end up being $5 million or $10 million in next year's budget.
But supporters, including researchers at Johns Hopkins University and economic development leaders, say such a fund would signal that the state is interested in supporting the emerging field.
''This investment will enable our state to bring the best talent to Maryland to build on our current strength to leverage new grants,'' said William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland.
The idea behind the legislation is to give grants to businesses to locate in Maryland. It also would provide a structured grant program for higher education research and for the transfer of technology developed from the research into commercial applications.
By 2014, nanotechnology might generate $2.6 trillion of manufacturing output and employ 2 million people, Lux Research Inc. of New York has estimated.
''We'd like to make sure, certainly, that those discoveries are being commercialized, being translated into the marketplace within the state of Maryland,'' said Dr. Peter Searson, director of the Johns Hopkins Nanobiotechnology Center.
The program described in the legislation would be administered by the Technology Economic Development Corporation, which would adopt regulations to set up a competitive process for grants.