What Nanotech Means to Health Care Investors
This article was originally published in Start Up
If there's a common theme being articulated by CEOs of nanobiotechnology start-ups, it's that, at least financially, life has been difficult because they're early stage. Indeed, the nanotech label is less significant to health care investors than considerations related to their business strategy. Drug-delivery-oriented nanobiotechs, for example, must be strongly product focused to avoid the implications that they have an old, low-value model.
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People have awakened to the opportunities in diagnostics. Molecular information offers the potential for increased test sensitivity, and reduced upfront sample prep using nanotechnology could provide the means for many gene- and protein-based diagnostic tests to transition out of the central lab. Nanotech may also enable the use of newly discovered or newly usable biomarkers. Finally, unlike the traditional point-of-care model, a new wave of nanotech-based instruments could bring testing even closer to the patient.
A team at UCLA used nanomechanics to show that tumor cells are significantly more elastic than normal cells, suggesting that stiffness can accurately distinguish them from normal cells. The technique could be readily adopted in pathology labs to improve the accuracy of traditional cytology analysis using standard sample preparation and processing. Moreover, there may be an immediate opportunity to use it to diagnose mesothelioma, which is not now possible using visual analysis.
The burgeoning field of nanotechnology is creating hope as well as anxiety in the healthcare industry as researchers look for the best way to use the technology and the FDA grapples to create a policy for regulating products that incorporate the futuristic micro-miniature science. In health care, early focus has been on infection control products.