General Introduction

NanoPharmaceuticals are the pharmaceuticals designed using "nanotechnology". What is
nanotechnology? It is a science of creation and utilization of materials, devices, and
systems through the control of matter on the nanometer-length scale. “Nano” means
dwarf in Greek, a nanometer is one billionth of a meter i.e. 10-9 meter. This definition
covers a wide range of differing scientific fields, from lithography to nanomachanics,
nanorobots, nano biotechnology and nanopharmaceuticals etc.,

In 1959, observing how nature works at these nanoscale levels of measurement, Dr.
Feynman (Nobel price winner in Physics, 1965) concluded that man could work at
them, too, in a seminal speech titled
“There Is Plenty of Room at the Bottom” Thus, the
embryonic science that became known as “Nanotechnology” was born. This area is
stirring tremendous excitement among scientific community both in academia as well as
industries; science and capitalism have joined forces to produce invisibly tiny materials
that will affect all of our lives.

It was K. Eric Drexler who is the founder and chairman emeritus of
Foresight Institute
USA a premier research institute for nanotechnology,who coined the term
“nanotechnology” in the 1980s.

Nanotechnology will be important for two main reasons. First, it promises an "industry"
forecasted to provide $1 trillion in revenues by 2015. Second, it will impact our life
irrespective of whether it meets those heady forecasts or not. Indeed, we are already
using many of theses products with nanoparticles in them and not even know it.

Research Funding

The President of United States George.W. Bush allocated $3.7 billion to the research and
development of nanotechnology. However, funding in US started pouring in late 90s. In
1999 the then president of US Mr.Bill Clinton allocated $500 million for nanotech
research in all the disciplines of science.Later in the year 2002 National Institute of
Health (NIH),US allocated around $45 millionfor nanotech research. Major themes and
new programs include:

  • Biomaterials
  • Clinical diagnostic sensors
  • Genomics sensors
  • Nanoparticles and nanospheres for drug and gene delivery
  • Multidisciplinary training
  • Study social, ethical and legal aspects

The NIH Bioengineering Consortium (BECON) will coordinate research programs
through The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

Nanotechnology not only attracted research funding in developed world but also lot of
investment is made in developing countries. A survey by Peter Singer and his group
reported showed a surprising amount of research spending in countries with large
percentages of poor people and China, South Korea, and India were identified as “front

Ample of research effort is going on in application of nanotechnology in therapeutic
segments. Due to their size nanoparticles are made up of few molecules, when the size
of the material is reduced to less than 100 nanometers, the realm of quantum physics
takes over and materials begin to demonstrate entirely new properties.

For instance, materials can be stronger, lighter and highly soluble, less hygroscopic, or
with totally different Physicochemical properties. The practical application of this can
be demonstrated with a simple example
of carbon which is main building block of coal and a diamond.
Mother Nature arranged
these materials accordingly but now we can engineer materials using nanotechnology,
to create entirely new materials, devices and structures.

NanoPharmaceuticals are broadly classified as

  • NanoEngineered Drugs
  • NanoCarriers.

NanoEngineered Drugs

Pharmaceutical scientists manipulate drug molecules to attain desired physical nature
by adopting; various crystallization procedures, salts, or with molecules of water of
crystallization. This manipulation is desired to make the drug molecule chemically-
stable, for the art of pharmaceutical compounding or to increase their
therapeutics/bioavailability. Similarly nano-design of the existing drug molecule and
drugs in discovery pipeline to nanocrystals, nanoprecipitas, nanosupensions and
nanoparticles, might help in:

  • Increasing the solubility and bioavailability of drug molecules (nanocrystaline
    material to increase oral bioavailability)

  • Development of different dosage forms (Ex. Nano-suspensions for parentals)

  • Exploring different routs of administrations (Ex. Nasal and ophthalmic delivery
    provides a patient-friendly alternative).


After i.v. administration of particulate drug carrier they will be cleared from the
circulation by spleen and liver depend upon the size of the particles. It was reported
that particles less than 200 nm can escape this physical screening, hence,
nanoparticulate carriers might be of grate interest. Nanoparticles with hydrophilic
surfaces avoid reticuloendothelial system (RES) uptake and are long circulating.
Nanoparticles which are long circulating might get targeted to tumour tissue by a
mechanism known as enhanced permeation and retention (EPR).  Where in
nanoparticles permeate into leaky vascular for a typical tumour tissue, subsequently
they will be retained due to the primitive lymphatic system development.

First product which saw the day of light based on NanoCarriers strategy is
PEGylated liposomal formulation for doxorubicin. Theses liposomes are called as
“Stealth” liposomes with size <200nm which are long circulation.  Theses nanoCarriers
can also be attached with ligands for active targeting. Hence nanotechnology is a “holy
grill” for fundamental problems of drug targeting.

Econmics of NanoPharmaceuticals

According to a report from NanoMarkets, an industry consulting firm based in
Sterling, USA, nanotechnology-enabled drug delivery systems will generate over $1.7
billion ($US) in 2009 and over $4.8 billion in 2012. The global drug delivery products
and services market is projected to surpass US$67 billion in 2009.  
Lux Research
reported that that big Pharma companies are “flat footed” in their initiative about
nanotechnology, however, medical device companies are more aggressive in perusing
nanotechnological strategies.    

In nutshell nanotechnology is there to stand and show its impact on design of drug
molecules, the benefit of which will be seen in augmenting the product life cycle,
patent life, along with their therapeutic efficiency.  

Scientific Interest in Nanotechnology

We made a systematic search in Pubmed to know the number of publication made in
this area of research.  During 1960-1990 only 60 research papers were published on
nanoPharmaceuticals, however, there are more than thousand research findings are
published within last five years. These numbers are devoid of publications related to
liposomes and dendrimers.  Patent survey showed that more than 100 patent
applications are granted in US patent office from 2001 to 2005 on

International Journal of Pharmaceutics started a new section on
pharmaceutical nanotechnology. Many dedicated journal like Nanoletters,
Nanotechnology etc., publish the research papers related to nanotechnology in general
and also include application in Pharmaceutical and Medical sciences. For general
information and
news there are more than ten web pages dedicated, readers can visit
theses web pages for more information. Around the world many research initiatives,
institutes and groups are floated to focus the research in the area of nanotechnology.  
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Introduction to NanoPharmaceuticals