According to a new report, nanotechnology is set to play a major part in drug delivery systems especially for tumour therapies. The report cites nanoparticles as being particularly suited to curing specific conditions such as cancer, as their sizes are comparable with tissue cells.
"When combined with currently available binding agents, these nanoparticles can turn into targeted drug delivery systems," said Hrishikesh Bidwe from Frost & Sullivan.
"Drug discovery processes can use nanofluidic technology to improve current assays and chromatographic techniques, while diagnostics can use nanoparticles and quantum dots to target and differentiate healthy molecules from damaged or infected molecules and cells."
The emergence of nanotechnology is likely to affect just about every route of administration from oral to injectable. The payoff is likely to be lower drug toxicity, reduced cost of treatments, improved bioavailability and an extension of the economic life of proprietary drugs.
The report was quick to point out that these developments would require substantial funding, which small companies would struggle to afford. One possible solution would be for companies to partner with bigger enterprises to not only strengthen their base in terms of basic research, manufacturing, marketing and support.
Some healthcare organisations partner with each other during the clinical stage so that they can create new and effective drugs or drug delivery systems.
Nanotechnology has empowered scientists to manipulate materials at the atomic level. This remarkable ability enables manufacturers to offer materials with customisable properties such as unsurpassed electrical as well as optical conductivity and mechanical strength.
Bidwe said: "Once base technologies such as particle formulation and nanotechnology synthesis into polymers become standard processes, development of products for mainstream commercial applications is expected to become a lot easier."
"This development is also likely to reduce the time to market and shorten the product development life cycle."
There are several European research programmes relating to nanomaterials that are carried out in collaboration with industry majors such as BASF Corporation and The Dow Chemical Company. These programmes are conducted with specific commercialisation plans.
In addition, governments in Europe are also making funding available to support nanotechnology. Most recently, Germany made a €50m fund available to help start-up companies in the 'bionanotechnology' sector, while the European Union has committed €15.6m to applications in life sciences and in 2003 the UK government earmarked £90 million for micro- and nanotechnology research across all sectors.