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March 1st, 2010
Nanotechnology: A lifeline for drying pharma pipelines?
What has been nanotechnology's greatest contribution to the healthcare sector in the last 5 years?
Adriana Vela: Although still far from a cure, the area of healthcare where nanotechnology has made its greatest contributions is cancer.
Nanotechnology is enabling new applications in the areas of molecular imaging and early detection, in vivo imaging, reporters of efficacy, multifunctional therapeutics and research tools. Significant advances have been made in all of these areas thanks to the funding awarded in 2004 by the US National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Alliance for Nanotechnology, which funded eight Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence and 12 Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnerships.
From a research perspective, the programme has already yielded more than 1000 peer-reviewed journal publications. From a clinical translation perspective, 50 diagnostics and therapeutic companies have collaborated with this programme and 34 new companies have been formed in the last 4 years — 10 of these new companies were formed just last year. Combined, they have a strong intellectual property portfolio of more than 200 disclosures and patents filed. Additionally, 8-10 clinical trials are associated with this programme and several companies are in pre-IND discussions with the FDA.
Drug delivery is another hot area where nanotechnology has made significant contributions. Today's drugs have issues such as systemic and non-specific delivery, side effects and the need for organic solvents. With nanotechnology, however, advances have been made towards improved localised delivery of drugs to tumour sites, improved efficacy and reduced side effects. Several nanotech-enabled drugs can now be found on the market such as Abraxane (Abraxis BioSciences), an albumin-bound paclitaxel for metastatic breast cancer; liposomal therapies Doxil, DaunoXome and Myocetp; and polymeric therapies, which include Genexol-PM and Oncaspar.
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