Skip to main content
An official website of the United States government

About the Nanotechnology Characterization Lab (NCL)

Services Provided by the Nanotechnology Characterization Lab

The Nanotechnology Characterization Lab is a fully equipped, multidisciplinary resource for investigators developing nano-based therapies. Learn more about the services available through collaboration with the NCL.

NCI founded the Nanotechnology Characterization Lab (NCL) in 2004, in collaboration with the US Food and Drug Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology, as a public–private partnership to advance the science needed to expedite the development of promising nanotech therapies and diagnostics. The NCL’s initial mission was to develop an “Assay Cascade” of scientific tests that would help determine the reproducibility, safety, and efficacy of nanomedicines to facilitate regulatory review. NCL is the only lab with experience testing the wide variety of platforms used in nanomedicine. Since its founding, the NCL has tested more than 500 unique nanomaterials, including almost every type of nanoparticle used in biomedical research and development (e.g., metallic, liposomes, polymers, proteins, micelles, DNA and RNA nanostructures, carbon nanotubes) with nearly every type of active pharmaceutical ingredient (e.g., small molecules, peptides, proteins, nucleic acids, plasmids).



The NCL assists the extramural nanotechnology research community by providing characterization and formulation assistance. The goal of these efforts is to assist developers with preclinical development and clinical translation of their products. Characterization includes comprehensive physicochemical analysis, as well as in vitro and in vivo analysis of immunology, pharmacology, and toxicology properties. Nanotech characterization services are available through the free Assay Cascade program and the cCRADA mechanism, and for select assays, the technical services mechanism. Nanotech reformulation services are available through the cCRADA mechanism.   

The NCL is located at the Advanced Technology Research Facility in Frederick, Maryland, with over 11,000 square feet of laboratory and office space. The laboratories are outfitted with two tissue culture rooms, an isotope laboratory, a walk-in cold room, several microscopy rooms, a chromatography and electrophoresis area, a spectroscopy area, a formulation/synthetic lab with chemical fume hoods, multiple customizable research bays, and open floor space for freestanding instrumentation and equipment. The NCL also has direct access to all resources at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research , including those co-located with the NCL at the Advanced Technology Research Facility.


2023 NCL Annual Report

2023 NCL Annual Report


2023 NCL Annual Report

NCL's annual publication of metrics on NCL's Assay Cascade characterization program, including application and submission trends. Highlighted are a new application mechanism intended to reach an even broader audience, new protocols added to the NCL's Assay Cascade, and many non-characterization support opportunities. The report also features success stories from several recent collaborators. 

  • NCL Staff

    Find biographies for the Nanotechnology Characterization Lab team. Together, NCL staff help provide a thorough understanding of nanoparticles' physicochemical and biological properties to accelerate their translation to clinical trials.

  • NCL Publications

    A list of NCL's most recent publications.

  • NCL Collaborators

    All of NCL's programs (Assay Cascade, cCRADA, Technical Services) are open to researchers from any institution. Non-US organizations are also eligible.