Nanomedicine is a relatively new but rapidly growing field in which nanomaterials, such as liposomes, microbubbles or other nanoparticles, are introduced to targeted sites for a variety of applications, such as imaging, diagnosis and the delivery of drugs to treat complex diseases like cancer and chronic diseases. The use of nanomedicine is rapidly growing as it holds many advantages over conventional diagnostic or therapeutic medicine. These include, but are not limited to, high drug specificity on target sites, prolonged drug half-life from nanomaterials encapsulating the drugs rather than letting them flow as free compounds, and even reduced drug toxicity from the controlled release of drugs throughout the multistep delivery processes. The nanomedicine industry continues to show signs of strong growth, with the market continuously seeing improvements in the underlying biotechnology, growing market players and an increasing number of applications.

The first nanomedicine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals’ Adagen (pegademase bovine) in 1990, which was made using synthetic nanoparticles called polyethylene glycol (PEG) and was indicated for treating severe combined immunodeficiency disease. Since then, multiple other companies, both large and small, have released their own nanomedicines to treat a wide variety of indications, such as cancer, antifungals, vaccines and neurological conditions. These companies include Roche, Merck, Pacira BioSciences and Jazz Pharmaceuticals among many others. Some notable other nanomedicines that have found clinical successes include Janssen’s Doxil (doxorubicin) and Celgene’s Abraxane (protein-bound paclitaxel).

Key drivers of the continued growth in this market are the increasing adoption of healthcare professionals using nanomedicines over traditional drugs, the improved and growing number of nanomedicines, and changing regulatory dynamics to allow for more nanomedicine candidates to be reviewed for approvals. Some challenges have, however, set back the market’s full growth potential, including expensive research and development (R&D), regulatory issues where detailed guidelines were not always provided, and the safety of the nanoparticles themselves. Overcoming these hurdles will be critical for this market to accelerate its growth.

Unlike most MedTech industries, whose growth was hampered last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the nanomedicine market remained relatively unscathed. This is primarily due to the severity of health conditions for which nanomedicines are used. Because of this, patients who had already been prescribed nanomedicines before the pandemic continued to take these drugs to maintain their quality of life. Even though the number of new patients being prescribed nanomedicines may have been slightly affected during the worst months of the pandemic, the importance of diagnosing life-threatening conditions early on using nanomedicine has driven the market’s continued growth.

The emerging nanomedicine market has continued its significant growth rate in recent years, and GlobalData forecasts this trend to continue for at least the next several years. For example, GlobalData forecasts the global microbubble market, as used for ultrasound imaging, to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11% between 2016 and 2026, surpassing sales of $300m. Some of the FDA-approved microbubbles used for imaging include Lantheus Medical Imaging’s Definity (perflutren lipid microsphere), Bracco Diagnostics’ Lumason (sulfur hexafluoride lipid-type A microspheres), and GE Healthcare’s Optison (perflutren protein-type A microspheres injectable suspension). If microbubble technology continues to improve and regulatory bodies approve any repurposing of these microbubbles for the delivery of therapeutic compounds, GlobalData expects this market to increase in value.