Nanotechnology, which is the manipulation of molecules on an atomic scale, has been implemented by companies in medicine, with applications galore – in drug discovery, tissue engineering, imaging and diagnostics. A rapidly growing field, the initial developments in nanomedicine took place at the turn of the century, although the study of nanoparticles such as colloidal gold dates back to the 1890s and early 1900s.
The first-ever drug to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., Doxil, is a PEGylated nano-liposome-based drug which has been authorized to treat AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other solid tumors. This set off the technology in motion with the invention of drugs like Abraxane and Myocet, and the more recently approved Hensify, Nanobiotix’s drug activated by radiotherapy, for the treatment of cancer.
As techniques and tools to exploit nanotechnology in the field of healthcare progress, here are six nanotechnology companies that are widening the scope in medicine that you should know about.
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ARIZ Precision Medicine
Today, as the field of precision medicine thrives, ARIZ Precision Medicine, a biotech company based in California in the U.S., aims to incorporate nanotechnology for the targeted delivery of cancer drugs.
The company’s product composes of a nanoparticle, which is customized based on the kind of cancer it is attacking, and has small interfering RNA (siRNA) that kill proteins that drive cancer without harming the neighboring healthy cells, cancer cell targeting peptides, as well as the chemotherapy drug – which is encapsulated within the nanoparticle. The nanoparticle is PEGylated, a process by which the polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG) is added to protect the drug.
The company has eight indications in its pipeline, which target the PRDM class of proteins responsible for enabling the proliferation of cancer cells.
Since its inception in 2015, the company has raised a total of $2.7 million over three financing rounds. The latest funding round which occurred in 2022 was led by California-based venture capital firm Moneta Ventures.
While skin conditions are often treated with topical drugs, they do not always work very well as the skin is a powerful barrier. U.K.-based Blueberry Therapeutics aims to address this issue through its drug formulation BB2603 for the treatment of fungal nail infection.
The therapy employs polymers which form complexes with the drug, the complexes being nanoparticles. These nanoparticles amplify drug solubility and retention and as a result, can be administered in lower doses when compared with the drug on its own.
With five drugs in its pipeline, the biotech’s drug delivery candidate BB2603 is currently in phase 2 trials for distal subungual onychomycosis (DSO) – fungal nail infections – of the toenail. The nanotechnology company has successfully completed a comparative efficacy study of BB2603 cutaneous hand-pump spray, Lamisil spray – a commonly used spray for the treatment of athlete’s foot – and BB2603 vehicle hand-pump spray, in participants with onychomycosis and associated tinea pedis (athlete’s foot), where BB2603 demonstrated anti-dermatophyte activity, meaning that it was able to reduce fungal infection.
Founded in 2011, Blueberry Therapeutics has received £17.4 million in funding over six rounds. The latest round took place in 2021, and its most recent investors are NPIF Maven Equity Finance in the U.K. and Medical Incubator Japan.
Some of the most common approaches for cancer treatment include chemotherapy and immunotherapy but direct administration of these drugs often lead to less than sufficient pharmacokinetics, vulnerability to biodegradation, compromised targeting, and strong side effects. To tackle drug delivery issues, Cello Therapeutics, a biotech located in San Diego in the U.S., has developed biomimetic cell membrane-coated nanoparticles.
Using human cell membranes to coat nanoparticles, the company’s drug delivery platform has 11 products in its developmental pipeline. One of the most advanced in its program is its platelet-derived membrane-coated nanoparticles in the delivery of immunotherapy agents for the treatment of multiple cancers, which is currently in preclinical stages. It was found that the outer membrane enhanced interactions with the tumor microenvironment, and delivery by nanoparticle was able to induce tumor regression in a colorectal tumor model as well as delayed tumor growth in a breast cancer model, indicating a superior antitumor immune effect. Cello Therapeutics looks forward to filing Investigational New Drug (IND) applications with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for all of its pipeline products upon completion of preclinical studies.
Established in 2016, the nanotechnology company has secured a total of $8.7 million in two investment rounds, after the latest round was held in 2022.
Situated in London in the U.K, FabricNano was founded in 2018 to offer sustainable ways to manufacture biochemicals. The company’s proprietary Immobilization Engineering technology is a cell-free means to biomanufacturing products.
Emerging as an alternative to cell-based fermentation, Immobilization Engineering is powered by enzymes. The technology aids in the production of biosynthetic products through methods of enzyme engineering and downstream processing for large-scale product commercialization. With the goal to cut down on biomanufacturing costs as well as to speed up production, the company’s DNA-based flow reactor produces biochemicals using engineered enzymes that bind to the DNA.
Last month, the nanotechnology company announced that it has entered into a partnership with Japanese investment group Sumitomo to scale-up commercialization of FabricNano’s enzyme-synthesized products. The biotech has previously collaborated with Future BRH, which focused on the immobilization of enzymes onto DNA fabric scaffolds and also with European venture capital firm Atomico for the accelerated development of the FabricFlow reactor technology.
The company has raised $15.5 million in funding over three rounds, having secured $12.5 million in its most recent series A investment round, with its most active investors being London-based venture capitals Backed VC and Hoxton Ventures, and angel investor Serge Chiaramonte.
Headquartered in the capital city of Helsinki, Finland, Nanoform’s Controlled Expansion of Supercritical Solutions (CESS) technology creates active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) nanoparticles to overcome the challenges of drug delivery.
The CESS technology works by controlling the solubility of an API in supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO₂). Supercritical carbon dioxide, a fluid state of carbon dioxide where it is held at or above its critical temperature and pressure, is obtained from pharma grade carbon dioxide which is recycled from a local industrial side stream. This allows crystallization at a range of temperatures. The benefit of utilizing scCO₂ in the process is that the output is free from harmful waste products and carbon-based organic solvents – which may be carcinogenic and hazardous. Applying the CESS technology, the company is able to develop nanoparticle-based formulations that have the potential to be administered at low doses.
In the budding field of biologics, the nanotechnology company also aims to deliver its nanoparticle-based products via parenteral administration routes that include intranasal sprays, pulmonary and subcutaneous injections as a higher load of nanoformed active ingredient could be administered for improved delivery. The biotech’s proprietary technology employs a nebulizer wherein API containing feed solution is pumped, which is then converted into a carrier gas. Mist is then dried in a chamber, after which the particles undergo ionization, becoming charged particles, which are then collected by electrostatic precipitation. This technique has been adopted to create nanoformed rituximab, a monoclonal antibody, for amplified delivery of the cancer drug rituximab.
Set up in 2015, Nanoform has obtained €42 million ($45.06 million) in funding over three rounds, with the most recent round being a post-IPO equity round, which took place in 2022.
Specializing in drug delivery, American biotech Zylo Therapeutics has created Z-pods, which are amorphous silica particles that have been engineered to encapsulate compounds, and can be adapted to enhance bioavailability. The company’s scalable universal delivery platform can be leveraged to target the pilosebaceous unit.
The Z-pods also use nitric oxide, which has been successful in aiding the treatment of erectile dysfunction, wound healing, infections, burns, and onychomycosis, proven in non-clinical trials. For its Z-pods, the nanotechnology company has been awarded over $3 million in grants by the National Institutes of Health and the South Carolina Research Authority, among other organizations.
Established in 2017, Zylo Therapeutics has secured $13.2M in funding over seven rounds, with the latest one being a series B round in 2022, where the most recent investors were seed capital firm New York Angels and angel investor James Cordes.