Applying Biopharmaceutical Nanotechnology to Diagnostics, Drug Discovery and Drug Delivery

Pharma IQ

The application of nanobiotechnology has far ranging uses within a number of sectors of the life sciences industry, including drug discovery, formulation, clinical assessment, drug delivery and monitoring.

A benchmark report on nanotechnology produced in 2002 by CMP Cientifica claimed that nanotechnology will have "a major impact on the medical and pharmaceuticals industry" and since then a number of companies have been benefiting from the development of such technologies.

Flamel Technologies, which produces the Micro Pump and Medusa platforms, recently announced the signing of three new agreements, one of which is to develop a controlled release formulation involving a peptide and a protein intended to treat metabolic disease.

Announcing the company's results for the second quarter of 2010 recently, Stephen H Willard, Flamel's chief executive officer, said that its molecules that are already on the market $17 billion (£10.6 billion)  in revenues in 2009and suggested that this figure will continue to grow.

"We believe that the applicability of the Medusa platform in creating better formulations of biologics will continue to gain considerable traction within the industry as our data become available," he added.

Advancing drug delivery

A report by the Institute for Nanotechnology, entitled Nanotechnology and its implications for the health of the EU citizen: Diagnostics, drug discovery and drug delivery, cited figures that suggested in the year 2007 the European market for drug delivery systems in the pharmaceutical industry may have reached a value of $29.2 billion.

The reasons for the increase in value was said to be multifaceted, relating to developments in cancer and viral treatments, consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry and the expiration of patents.

According to the report, "pressure on companies to prolong the lifecycle of existing drugs and also to produce new products" is a driver behind the increased use of biopharmaceutical nanotechnology.

"Many companies are attempting to combine new drug delivery technologies with existing drugs in order to extend their patent life," the report added.

Nanoparticles and nanocapsules have both been shown to provide advantages within the field of cancer treatment, as they allow drugs to enter the body undetected by the immune system that can then target the relevant cells, reducing the harmful side effects.

"Beyond the ability to deliver existing drugs to their target, nanocapsules would also allow for as much as a 10,000-fold decrease in drug dosages, reducing the harmful side effects of drugs such as those used in chemotherapy," the Institute for Nanotechnology report added.

Using nanoparticles in early detection of breast cancer

In late 2009, $2.8 million was awarded by the United States Department of Defense to Professor Errki Ruoslahti, of the University of California Santa Barbara's Burnham Institute for Medical Research, for research within the area of using nanotechnology to treat breast cancer.

Ruoslahti said that a "paradigm" shift is needed in the way that breast cancer is treated, as currently the use of surgical intervention followed by chemotherapy produces side effects which could reduce quality of life and maintain the possibility of reoccurrence.

"We envision that the cure for breast cancer can be achieved by strategically integrating early detection with synergistic therapies. We believe that nanotechnology-based engineering solutions can provide the needed changes to drastically improve the cure rates," he added.

The team of researchers, which includes Roger Tsien of UC San Diego and Shiladitya Sengupta of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, will work on improving diagnostics to allow for earlier detection of breast cancer which will reduce the need for potentially unnecessary treatment.

By using nanoparticles the team believe they will be able to detect the presence and location of a tumour more effectively than a MRI, as well as establishing the stage of tumour development.

"The diagnostic and therapy functions will be synergistic in that the diagnostic methods will provide information on the efficacy of individual homing peptides in targeting the tumour," Ruoslahti added.

The Hybrid Nanotechnologies for Detection and Synergistic Therapies for Breast Cancer award is due to run until October 2014.