Editorial Feature

Biomedical, Pharmaceutical and Drug Delivery Applications and Developments Using Nanotechnology

The biomedical industry is Australia's strongest biotechnology sub-sector. Australian capabilities in the biomedical sub-sector are particularly focused on products such as therapeutics, diagnostics, vaccines, and medical devices.

Nanotechnology Victoria - Biomedical Projects

Each of Nanotechnology Victoria's Members has strong capabilities in bioengineering, and these are leveraged in a series of projects to produce new functional materials for the pharmaceutical, agricultural and medical industries. These include:

  • arrays
  • implantable materials
  • skin products and delivery systems
  • biologically-active membranes
  • stemcell scaffolds

Dr Bob Irving of Nanotechnology Victoria is responsible for the development and management of projects in the field of new biomaterials. Some current proposals include:

  • Methods for encapsulation of nutritional and therapeutic products in nanostructured materials, and delivery via skin products or inhaled products.
  • Use of nanoparticles in diagnostic systems, in particular nanoparticles that bear unique optical properties or whose magnetic characteristics can be exploited.
  • Agricultural products, where the nanoscale features either allow better dispersion or better absorption on plant surfaces.

Nanotechnology Victoria also runs specific biomedical projects in diagnostics and drug delivery.

Opportunities for Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology may provide new solutions in a number of biomedical fields:

  • Managed molecular interaction: drug delivery
  • Managed molecular recognition: diagnostics linking molecular reaction to signalling mechanisms
  • Ability to use molecularly imprinted polymers and other mechanisms to produce desired products at high purity
  • Tailored implants; biocompatible bone or joint replacements
  • "Smart" materials: materials with functional (electrical, thermal, physical or optical) capabilities; ultimately integration of biological processes with electronics, e.g. biological semiconductors
  • Understanding of and developing solutions for the ageing process through research of genes at a molecular level

Potential Health Benefits

Nanotechnology Victoria has available a presentation outlining ten potential benefits from nanotechnology to human health including:

  • Faster, more accurate disease diagnosis
  • Therapies that attack your disease, not your body
  • Safer, more accurate MRI
  • Better protection from infection
  • More powerful antibiotics
  • More accurate, less invasive surgery
  • Safer drinking water
  • Better nutritional supplements
  • Better UV protection
  • Cleaner surfaces

Biomedicine in Australia

Australia has a history of leading development in biomedicine, from when Howard Florey was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945 for his role in developing penicillin. Other significant Australian discoveries include the creation of the bionic ear, and being the first to purify and clone three of the major regulators of blood cell formation: GCSF, GMCSF and LIF.

Significant biomedical organisations in Victoria include Bio21, a collaborative body for members committed to the advancement, training and commercialisation of biomedical science, clinical research and biotechnology discoveries. The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the Monash Institute for Health are two other key biomedical institutes in Victoria with distinguished track records in research and education.

Nanotechnology Victoria Members with important skills in these areas include:

  • Monash University School of Biomedical Sciences
  • CSIRO Health Science and Nutrition
  • Food Science Australia (CSIRO a major partner)
  • Swinburne University Bioengineering, and MiniFAB
  • RMIT

Drug Delivery

Within the biomedical industry, especially the medical device and diagnostic areas, drug delivery methods that use the enabling technology of nanotechnology and biomaterial in optical devices are emerging strengths for Australian practitioners.

Opportunities for Nanotechnology

In biopharmaceutical delivery there are a number of features of nanotechnology which make it a suitable tool to address major issues:

  • reduction of particle size and increased surface area, enhancing solubility
  • increasing oral bioavailability
  • targeting of tissues, cells and cellular receptors
  • gene and vaccine delivery
  • allows crossing of biological membranes especially the blood brain barrier
  • design of new nanoporous membranes for controlled-release devices
  • artificial surface engineering of implants to increase biocompatibility

Major developments for nanotechnology driven drug delivery include:

  • Delivery-composites- and potential value of polymer composites
  • Bioavailability (solubility) as a major driver for nanostructuring of drugs and reagents
  • ADEPT Technology for safe targeted delivery of toxic therapeutic drugs

A market analysis performed in March 2004 suggested that "Nanotechnology is currently applied in ~1% of drug delivery technologies under development; by 2015, ~14% of drug delivery technologies may use nanotechnology".

BioPharmaceutical Delivery Projects

TransDermal Delivery

The painless delivery of large bio-pharmaceutical molecules across the essentially impervious outer layer of the skin through skin contact with topologically undulating patches is the focus of this transdermal delivery process. This project is evaluating and demonstrating the delivery of large peptide and proteins: 1) hormones, 2) drugs 3) vaccines and 4) local wound healing agents for human and animal health

Particle Engineering

Nanoparticulate structuring and efficacy of delivery of nanoparticulate biological reagents for human health is the focus of this piece of work. Further developments in particle engineering are under consideration.

Biopolymer Needles

This project aims to manufacture microneedles for drug delivery from biocompatible polymers. These can then be used for both transdermal drug delivery and sampling devices for human and veterinary applications. The first demonstrations with these would involve demonstration of delivery of functionalised non-toxic quantum dots (BioQDs) as carrier particles for reagent delivery and in vivo imaging.

Source: NanoVic

For more information on this source please visit NanoVic.

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