"Long a minor concern for pharmaceutical companies, drug delivery is now one very hot topic," says Technical Insights Analyst Katherine Austin. "The pharmaceutical industry is realizing that not only can improved technology deliver particular drugs more effectively or conveniently, it can also extend the life cycle of these products as they lose their coveted patent protection."
Many new technologies are being developed to target drugs directly to where they are needed in the body. These include the attachment of targeting molecules, such as monoclonal antibodies and receptor ligands, to carriers such as liposomes, polymer particles, and nanospheres. A number of labs are even learning how to use soccer-ball-shaped fullerene molecules or algae skeletons as cages to carry and control the release of drugs.
The delivery of cancer drugs is one application for which targeted delivery may prove especially valuable. Because anti-cancer drugs tend to be highly toxic to healthy cells as well as malignant ones, researchers and patients alike hope that it will become easier to target these drugs directly to the tumor, sparing healthy tissues.
New analysis by Technical Insights, a business unit of Frost & Sullivan (www.Technical-Insights.frost.com), Drug Delivery, reveals that over 300 companies are currently developing various avenues of drug delivery. Emerging technologies ranging from medicated powders pumped into the skin at supersonic speeds, to implanted microchips that deliver precise dosages, to nano-molecular transportation systems are growing prospects for drug delivery.