The ageing population, the high expectations for better quality of life and the changing lifestyle of European society call for improved, more efficient and affordable health care.
Nanotechnology can offer impressive resolutions, when applied to medical challenges like cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular problems, inflammatory or infectious diseases.
Experts of the highest level from industry, research centers and academia convened to prepare the present vision regarding future research priorities in NanoMedicine. A key conclusion was the recommendation to set up a European Technology Platform on NanoMedicine designed to strengthen Europe's competitive position and improve the quality of life and health care of its citizens. This article has been extracted from the vision paper “European Technology Platform on NanoMedicine - Nanotechnology for Health” produced by the European Commission.
NanoMedicine is not only important to Europe from the social and welfare aspects, but also for its economic potential. It includes all products that can be defined as ‘systems and technologies for healthcare, aimed at prevention, diagnosis or therapy’. Little market data is published specifically about NanoMedicine at present. However, an analysis of the market segments for medical devices and drugs & pharmaceuticals gives an idea about the leverage of NanoMedicine on the markets. These two market segments represented in 2003 an end-user value of € 535 billion, of which the drugs segment is the most important, with a value of € 390 billion. Globally this market has been growing at a 7 to 9% annual rate, with variations according to country, technologies and market segments.
Medical Devices Market
The medical devices market is expected to grow in value by about 9% annually at present. The introduction of novel nanotechnologies can be expected to give rise to a much higher rate, by providing innovative solutions and more precise care and new information for preventive medicine. The market can be further segmented into areas where NanoMedicine might have the highest potential of penetration, such as in-vitro diagnostic products, patient monitoring systems, imaging systems or imaging contrast agents.
In a medical devices market of € 145 billion in 2003, in-vitro diagnostic systems represented € 18 billion, or 13% of the total. It can be expected that nanotechnology will have an impact on this expanding market in the coming years, as it offers the potential of faster and more accurate analyses of smaller and smaller samples.
Medical Imaging Systems Market
Medical imaging systems represent € 14.5 billion, or 8% of the total devices market. Imaging tools and imaging agents (including contrast media and radiopharmaceuticals) represent € 4 billion, or 3%. These segments will benefit from the application of techniques developed from an understanding both of materials and cellular activities at the nanoscale.
Already the sale of tools dedicated to molecular clinical and preclinical imaging represents € 0.8 billion out of the € 14.5 billion total, and the patient monitoring market represents € 1.5 billion.
NanoMedicine can also potentially affect aspects of all medical devices, for example new materials for surgical implants, nanometric systems for monitoring cardiac activities or minimally invasive surgery sensors.
The worldwide market for pharmaceutical drugs has been growing at a rate of 7% in 2004. The drug market can be segmented, with the global market for advanced drug delivery systems accounting for € 42.9 billion or 11% of the total. Approximately half of this market is in controlled release systems, with needle-less injection, injectable/implantable polymer systems, transmucosal, rectal, liposomal drug delivery and cell/gene therapy responsible for the rest and is estimated to reach € 75 billion in 2005.
Developments in this market are rapid; especially in the sector of alternatives to injected macromolecules, as drug formulations seek to cash in on the € 6.2 billion worldwide market for engineered protein and peptide drugs and other biological therapeutics.
Economic Potential of Nanomedicine
When reviewing the economic potential of NanoMedicine, all the biotech companies must be considered as they are directly involved in the development of new molecules, and also in the development of new tools for accelerating the discovery of appropriate molecules. Today half of the new molecules discovered worldwide come from biotech companies.
There are more than 4,000 worldwide, with over 300 companies in the US actively working on developing drug-delivery platforms, including therapies targeted to the site of the disease, as well as drug-containing implants, patches and gels.
Europe has acknowledged strengths particularly in medical devices development and in drug delivery research, and these are clearly areas where the establishment of a European NanoMedicine Platform would contribute to maintaining and improving European competitiveness.