Nanotechnology holds great promise for the development of new treatments and diagnostics. Nanotechnology may provide new drugs that are able to reach specific areas of the body more effectively and at safer doses.

Nanotechnology is the projected ability to make things from the bottom up, using techniques and tools that are being developed today to place every atom and molecule in a desired place. Nanotechnology is often referred to as a general-purpose technology. That’s because in its mature form it will have significant impact on almost all industries and all areas of society. It offers better built, longer lasting, cleaner, safer, and smarter products for the home, for communications, for medicine, for transportation, for agriculture, and for industry in general.

The term "nanotechnology" has evolved over the years via terminology drift to mean "anything smaller than micro technology," such as nano powders, and other things that are nanoscale in size, but not referring to mechanisms that have been purposefully built from nanoscale components.

The pharmaceutical industry has tapped the nano treasure chest as a way of developing new and more effective means of drug delivery, with carbon nanotubes, buckyballs and lipid nano-scale materials being exploited to get the most out of available materials.

Nanotechnology has great potential to benefit – even revolutionise – the pharmaceutical, medical devices, diagnostics and imaging sectors. Key technology platforms such as nanocrystals, nanotubes, dendrimers, fullerenes, quantum dots and molecular scaffolding will drive that market expansion.

“Nanomedicine” includes development of tiny sensors that detect disease markers in the body far earlier than existing diagnostic methods, and incredibly small pumps capable of delivering medications precisely to the cells and tissues that need them. Other examples of nano-products in development include disease imaging tools and food packaging that further extends shelf life.

Peter Singer, senior scientist at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, in his study "Nanotechnology and the Developing World" stated that India's Department of Science and Technology would invest $20 million in 2004-2009 for a Nanomaterials Science and Technology Initiative. China ranks third in patent application in nanotechnology, behind the US and Japan. In Brazil, the projected budget for nanoscience during 2004-2007 was about $25 million.

Marlene Bourne of Bourne Research said that the challenges the growing nanotechnology revolution presents include establishing effective quality control measures in the manufacturing process, as well as addressing key concerns regarding environmental impact and perceived health concerns. Some of these concerns are somewhat inevitable as a new technology becomes more prominent and consumers and patients learn to become familiar with previously alien materials or concepts.

Nanotechnology-based products are set to become increasingly common, with the technology opening up new possibilities across a range of industries. Drug delivery is one of the most dynamic and fast growing sectors of the pharmaceutical industry e.g. Pfizer’s inhaled insulin, Exubera, gaining US approval in January 2006.

‘Innovation in Drug Delivery’ provides an in-depth examination of product launches and pipeline drugs with novel drug delivery mechanisms set to revolutionize the market.

  • Solubility is a key resistor to drug delivery and a major factor causing attrition and poor efficacy in drug development, with an estimated 30% of drugs in pre-clinical development having low solubility.
  • Abraxane and Doxil are both innovative marketed oncology products utilizing nanotechnology, gaining sales of $184m and $177m in the US and 5 major European countries in 2005, respectively.
  • There are several high potential inhaled monoclonal antibodies in development, including products from Enzon and Nektar, Alexion and Medimmune, and Alkermes.
  • Active transdermal patches are predominantly indicated for pain and women’s health, but products using ALZA’s E-TRANS and Altea’s PassPort patch technology are predicted to available for protein delivery within the next few years, and consequently will increase the range of accessible indications for transdermal delivery.
  • Drug eluting stents are typically 3 to 4 fold more expensive than bare metal stents and have elicited safety concerns, however next generation drug-eluting stents consist of bio-absorbable polymers and are predicted to be safer.

Nanomedicine will exhibit strong growth in all sectors from 2006-2011, leading to multi-billion dollar revenues.

Recognizing the emerging nature of this technology and its potential for rapid development, the US FDA's Task Force Report on Nanotechnology released on 25th July 2007, addresses regulatory and scientific issues to regulate drugs, medical devices and other products built on the nanoscale. The report also  recommends development of nanotechnology-associated guidance for manufacturers and researchers.