With the potential for targeted therapy, and therefore reduced side effects, nanomedicine holds the promise of significantly improving quality of life parameters. At the same time, the adoption of nanotechnology-based applications by large therapeutic and diagnostic companies is accelerating the development of nanomedicine.
The prospect of site-specific therapeutic action and by extension of fewer side effects means that nanomedical applications have an enhanced risk-benefit analysis ratio. This is motivating their growing popularity as a therapeutic option.
"Furthermore, with techniques for early diagnosis of diseases and, in some cases, their disposition, prophylactic (preventive) intervention could well become a reality with the advent of nanomedicine," notes Rajaram Sankaran, Analyst from Frost & Sullivan. "With such prophylactic interventions, it might be possible to postpone or even completely avoid diseases, in some instances."
Key to nanomedicine's rapid evolution has been the embrace of nanotechnology-based applications by pharmaceuticals, biopharmaceuticals and drug delivery companies. Prominent instances include the use of Elan Corporation's NanoCrystal technology by Wyeth and Merck and the deployment of Quantum Dot Corporation's Qdot(r) particles by Pfizer, GSK, Astra Zeneca and Genentech.
Apart from such encouraging trends in the commercial sector, academia also has been instrumental in promoting the growth of nanomedicine. Innovation has been the leitmotif even as industry-academia partnerships have daily expanded the frontiers of nanomedical research.
However, while nanotechnology holds the promise of transforming the medical field, several challenges still remain. One of the most immediate issues confronting pure-play nanomedicine companies is the need to develop expertise across a range of technologies.
Forming synergistic collaborations with drug and medical device companies represents one of the most obvious routes of achieving such multi-disciplinary proficiency. Initially, such partnerships could take the form of joint marketing efforts, paving the way for nanomedical companies to independently handle all stages from R&D to commercialisation, in the long run.