One of the biggest technological forces behind our rapidly changing world is our ability to manipulate objects on a smaller and smaller scale.
The science that’s driving such progress is called nanotechnology. And just as breakthroughs in chemistry revolutionized the 20th century, nanotechnology is doing the same in the 21st century.
With nanotechnology, we’re taking progress to the next level. We can now manipulate objects (and build them) at the molecular, and even atomic, levels. It’s life-changing work.
For example, chemotherapy can now be applied directly to cancerous tumors, delivering treatment to the affected area only, rather than having toxic chemicals wash through the body, destroying the immune system, as well as the cancer.
And because we can build smaller delivery vehicles, we can revolutionize the way we use radiation therapy. Doctors can insert a tiny gold particle into a tumor, and then hit it with radiation until it explodes the cancer.
I want to profile two other nanotech breakthroughs that I’ve been following for nearly a decade. Ones that illustrate the incredible possibilities of the technology and will have a similarly huge impact on healthcare and the way we deliver medicine…
The Power of “Nano Broccoli”
The first breakthrough is actually a 40-year-old idea that only became realized when scientific methods caught up with visionary ideas.
Dendrimer, derived from the Greek word for tree – dendron – refers to a synthetic, three-dimensional molecule with branching parts. Dendrimers are formed using a nanoscale, multi-step fabrication process. Each step results in a new “generation” that has twice the complexity of the previous generation. A first generation dendrimer is the simplest, while a 10th generation dendrimer is the most complex and can take months to engineer.
Dendrimers are “stealth molecules” that boast many potential applications, including both diagnostic and therapeutic uses. By customizing and controlling their architecture, scientists are developing dendrimers for drug delivery, diagnostic imaging and as carriers of genetic material.
These molecules can easily move across biological membranes and can store a wide range of metals, plus other organic or inorganic molecules among their branches.
Now, many people in the scientific community aren’t onboard with the tech. Mainly because they’re too expensive to build and that any applications wouldn’t be commercially viable. Basically… nice for the lab but not much else.
However, dendrimers are now popping up in a variety of industries – including healthcare, agrochemicals, water treatment, coatings and cosmetics, and animal health.
At the Forefront of a Budding New Market
The leader in the field is an Australian firm, Starpharma (SPHRY). The company has an in-house dendrimer manufacturer that can build the molecules for its applications, while also getting a revenue stream from the dendrimers and kits that it sells to healthcare giants like Merck (MRK) and others.
Not only that, Starpharma has its own proprietary dendrimer creation – VivaGel – for use in a range of sexual health products.
VivaGel contains an antimicrobial agent that blocks infection from bacteria and viruses like HIV and genital herpes. In Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials, VivaGel has shown great promise for the treatment of bacterial vaginosis.
Starpharma has also signed two significant licensing agreements for its VivaGel-coated condom…
One is with Australian rubber firm, Ansell Limited (Australia: ANN) to develop a VivaGel-coated antiviral condom.
The other is with Okamoto Industries, Inc. – the leading condom manufacturer in Japan – in relation to marketing the VivaGel-coated condom for the Japanese market.
Starpharma will receive royalties and other payments from the agreements.
Now that Starpharma has shown proof of concept for nanotech-based dendrimers, other healthcare firms are interested in conducting studies that use dendrimers for heart disease, diabetes and other ailments.
In my next article, I’ll profile another major nanotech breakthrough and reveal a couple companies that are turning vaccines into one of the most revolutionary technologies in the world. Imagine a world where vaccines aren’t just used for viruses like influenza, but also for cancer and hepatitis.
It’s already happening! Stay tuned…