Innovations often require backing from those with the foresight to believe in them, and faith is required to overlook the risk associated with innovation. This is amplified in groundbreaking segments without much market validation. Such is the case today with nanomedicine, defined as the application of knowledge and tools of nanotechnology to the prevention and treatment of disease.
Investment activity in nanomedicine has been limited and unpredictable, primarily revolving around nanomedicine applications in oncology. Hesitation among investors may be attributable to the fact that nanomedicine is a non-product segment, meaning that technologies in this space need to be coupled with other attractive assets to provide a complete offering.
As nanomedicine tools and applications mature so will the investment opportunities.
Immunology and neurology are the next forefront of nanomedicine, as early-stage life science companies tackle new ways to approach autoimmune disorders and complicated CNS disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. While investments in nanotechnology in immunology and neurology are still small and scattered, this may grow as nanomedicine enables effective therapeutics for previously intractable diseases.
Nanomedicine can be used as a tool to facilitate controlled release or delivery of therapeutics. This can be as simple as extended release formulations. However, as therapeutics move from blunt force inhibition or activation to a more sophisticated manipulation of endogenous signaling pathways, the question becomes: Can nanomedicine be a vital tool that enables this transformation?
Nanotechnology can deliver cargo to a specific tissue or act as the scaffold for complicated cellular signaling pathways. In this way, we can “tune” the release specifications for specific therapeutic applications.
Cell-therapies are popular because of their delicate and more endogenous manipulation of complex pathways, as compared with systemic administration of small-molecules therapeutics. But cell-therapy can be complex and difficult to control. Nanomedicine provides an opportunity to recapitulate cell signaling in a more precise, regulated fashion that may help mitigate the technical and regulatory complexities of cell-based approaches.
Nanomedicine may be in an early phase, but it is poised for a breakthrough. Risk is always present, as with any high-potential technology. Those with the faith to commit now, however, may be rewarded with significant returns.
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