Nanomedicine is the medical application of nanotechnology—the manipulation of products and materials at the nanoscale—for the treatment, diagnosis, monitoring and control of biological systems. It could involve nanoparticle drug delivery and possible future applications of molecular nanotechnology and nanovaccinology.
Nanoscale delivery vehicles can improve the pharmacological properties of new molecular entities, enabling the discovery of safe and effective drug candidates and therapeutic pathways. They can also help pharmaceutical companies in their development strategy by reducing the development time for new therapies, adapting delivery systems, enhancing treatment performances and extending the life cycle of pharmaceutical products, according to various experts.
The New York Academy of Sciences, which plans a nanomedicine conference in November, believes that the field has "great promise for addressing some of the most challenging problems in nearly every medical specialty" and "the potential to generate many new opportunities for improving human health." One of the companies represented at the "Nanomedicines: Addressing the Scientific and Regulatory Gap Conference" on Nov. 21 is CytImmune Sciences, a clinical-stage nanomedicine company with a core focus on the discovery, development and commercialization of multifunctional, tumor-targeted therapies. Its R&D strategy harnesses the properties of gold nanoparticles, cytotoxic agents and tumor biology to develop a pipeline of proprietary drug candidates whose toxicity profiles might otherwise prevent or severely limit clinical use. The Rockville, Md.-based company is attempting to use nanotechnology to change the way cancer is treated, according to co-founder, president and CEO Dr. Lawrence Tamarkin.
Other topics to be addressed at the conference include current U.S. and international regulatory frameworks for nanomedicines and the future needs ahead, additional safety and toxicity research needed to determine unknown properties of nanomaterials and lessons learned from featured drug development case studies of nanomedicines. The conference, sponsored by Teva Pharmaceuticals, will conclude with a panel discussion to bring together both scientific and regulatory perspectives.
The use of nanopore technology aimed at more accurate and efficient DNA sequencing is the main focus of grants awarded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The grants of nearly $17 million to eight research teams are the latest awarded through the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)'s Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology program.
Nanopore-based DNA sequencing concepts usually involve one of the DNA strands passing through the nanopore sensor, where the individual nucleotides (DNA building blocks) are distinguished from each other. This technology offers many potential advantages over current DNA sequencing methods—real-time sequencing of single DNA molecules at low cost and the ability for the same molecule to be reassessed over and over again—according to Dr. Jeffery A. Schloss, program director for the NHGRI's Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology program and director of the Division of Genome Sciences.
One of the grants is for the research team of Dr. Theofilos Kotseroglou of Eve Biomedical in Mountain View, Calif., to develop a DNA sequencing system that can sequence an entire human genome for under $100. The overall system will be based on using light to sequence DNA on a cell phone camera chip.
In another nanomedicine development, Dr. Jean-Sebastien Garrigue, research and development director at Santen SAS, is leading a research team to develop ophthalmic pharmaceutical products based on innovative drug delivery systems, specifically nanoemulsions. The company applies a technology platform for topical delivery on the ocular surface with cationic nanoemulsions and works on a treatment that can be injected inside the eye as a potential cure for retinal disease.
Garrigue, who is using Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA) from NanoSight, says, "We needed more accurate equipment to measure the size of our nanoemulsions, to distinguish the different populations and to link the size of the nanoemulsions to their biological efficacy. Also, with NTA we are now able to count nanodroplets in a sample."
Garrigue adds that NTA helps his team to fine-tune measurement, identify subpopulations and differentiate crystals from nanodroplets of emulsions. NTA detects and visualizes populations of nanoparticles in liquids down to 10 nm, measures concentration and differentiates suitably labeled particles within complex background suspensions. It is used in the development of drug delivery systems, viral vaccines and the field of nanotoxicology, as well as biodiagnostics.
By reducing the size of particles needed to conduct analysis and treatment procedures, nanotechnology can save materials costs and limit the possibility of toxicity. It can deal with subpopulations, enhancing accuracy. Once the appropriate regulations are established, nanotechnology is likely to become more prevalent in drug discovery and drug delivery.