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Discovery & Development Drug Delivery

Surveying the New World of Drug Delivery

There has been a lot of innovation in drug delivery over the last two or three years, which has translated into significant customer interest in shifting from conventional drug delivery mechanisms to newer ones. We’ve captured this activity in our reports by analyzing the use of current and next-generation delivery systems. I’m particularly interested in targeted drug delivery for oncology applications, like newer delivery systems that present the drug directly at the tumor site, rather than just letting it swim through circulation until it eventually gets to the tumor.

But there has also been a lot of progress in drug delivery for cardiovascular applications; for example, drug-eluting biodegradable devices that are resorbed within two years. Such advances are interesting because they combine drug and device; drug-loaded stents are a good example, and various drug delivery routes have been adopted to manage indications such as hypertension, ischemic heart disease and coagulation.

The drug delivery sector is also very exciting from an M&A perspective. We’ve seen some interesting acquisitions over the last two or three years – it’s another major reason why the sector interests me.

In our analysis, we have identified a number of key forces that are acting to change the drug delivery landscape. One is the intense interest in targeted drug delivery. Targeted drugs can generate therapeutically effective concentrations in the disease area, with minimal effects on surrounding tissue, which is particularly beneficial for oncology drugs that can have a drastic effect on healthy tissue. Nanoparticles are being designed in such a manner that the drug payload can be safely delivered to the tumor site and specifically released at the site of the disease. In this manner, the drug’s bioavailability is greatly enhanced and the procedure to apply multiple drugs at a similar site can be suppressed as it leads to chemoresistance in cancer patients and failure of a high number of cancer therapies.

Another trend is the focus on bioavailability, which is critical for drug efficacy. Additives that enhance the bioavailability of the drug allow it to better perform the intended action. Similarly, mechanisms to improve the solubility and stability of the drug in a biological environment can have a big impact. I also find it very interesting that many of these technologies are also being used outside of human drug delivery; for example, I’m seeing use in animal health and even in the cosmetics industry.

One of the big challenges in the industry is non-compliance with oral drug regimes. Some patients forget to take them, and others don’t like the taste of the drugs. Because of this, we are seeing a shift from the oral route to other routes. In particular, there is a lot of interest in the advantages of drug delivery via the transdermal route (both active and passive forms). This was discussed in this magazine last month (, but it is worth noting, however, that reformulation for alternative routes can be a big challenge.

In general, the pace of big pharma innovation in the drug delivery field can be slow, but I think this will change in the next five years, particularly with the advent of nanotechnology – an area we expect to grow significantly in influence in the near future. Nanoparticles have a good drug loading capacity and can be used in various applications (including vaccines) through a number of delivery routes, including oral and nasal. They’ve been in the news for a while now, and they’ll have a growing impact on drug delivery over the next five years – watch out for magnetic nanoparticles, nanotechnology-based cyclodextrines, and fluid crystal nanoparticles...

However, it can be a struggle to demonstrate that a novel system has clinical effectiveness that is equivalent or superior to existing delivery systems – and that’s why new technologies may require another 5–10 years before they are widely adopted. Another point is that small and medium companies working in this space lack funding; they need to partner with bigger firms. In fact, many of these small companies develop technology with the sole intention of licensing it to a bigger company.

As with any change, there are challenges, but I’m positive about the future. Why? Because many of the companies and CEOs I’ve spoken to are themselves more positive about new formulations than existing ones. There have been big changes in the last five years, but there are so many companies working in this drug delivery space now that I think it’s going to shift even more quickly in the next five years.

One of the key trends I mentioned was the use of these applications across industries; for example, in cosmetics, formulations such as cyclodextrins and dendrimers are being used in fragrances, nanocrystals are being used in topical creams, and nanoemulsions are being used in nail polish compositions. I think it’s very important to note that mechanisms used in drug delivery systems do not necessarily pertain only to medicines. Technology convergence is a key success factor for any industry. In today’s world, there is no space for an industry that does not want to converge – and that goes for drug delivery as well.

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About the Author
Karan Verma

Karan Verma, Research Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, Pune, India.

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