DNA Nanotechnology: 3 Companies Building Better Synthetic Vaccines

Includes: INO, NVS, SNY
by: Cris Frangold

The principles and theories of DNA nanotechnology (and related areas including nanobiotechnology and nanooncology) have helped scientists and researchers create synthetic vaccines that could one day help treat and prevent the reoccurrence of potentially fatal diseases like cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis, and influenza. DNA nanotechnology allows medical professionals to study small components of DNA to determine the location of damaged cells. Once located, scientists can alter the way the body treats infected areas to ensure a full recovery.

Using the body's own immune defenses, this new treatment option could save millions of lives and reduce the cost of treatment. Also, when used to prevent the reoccurrence of disease, scientists can also prolong the lives of patients.

The Nanotechnology/Nanobiotechnology Market

The global nanotechnology/nanobiotechnology market is expected to grow to $6 billion by 2017 - the research and development of DNA sequencing alone could reach $305 million by 2015. This means that the nanotechnology/nanobiotechnology market could prove very attractive to investors looking for up and coming companies to invest in.

Given the increasing need for synthetic vaccines around the world, this market should continue to grow for many years. For medical professionals serving poor or remote areas with few hospitals or clinics, the ability to store synthetic vaccines has the potential to save countless lives. In areas where infectious diseases like foot and mouth disease, malaria, tuberculosis, and influenza are common, synthetic vaccines that not only treat, but destroy any opportunity for the virus to mutate and spread, would provide hope for generations of people.

In addition of the ability to store enough vaccines to ensure the health of large groups of people, synthetic vaccines are easier to develop than traditional vaccines, have the potential for universal use (meaning that one type of vaccine could treat multiple diseases), and cost less to produce. These factors alone should make investing in nanbiotechnology a viable option for any long-term investor.

The Potential to Save Lives

Biotech companies like Inovio (NYSEMKT:INO) constantly strive to develop synthetic vaccines with the potential to save as many lives as possible. With the spread of infectious diseases like AIDS, it's very important to not only determine a suitable, long-term treatment, but also help eradicate the disease from society to prevent future deaths.

Inovio has developed a line of Syncon vaccines that identity specific antigens already in the body that can help fight the disease present. The vaccines provide a patient's DNA with instructions for cells to produce additional antigens as necessary until the disease is destroyed. For cancer patients, these vaccines help the body identify damaged cells and destroy these cells through the production of additional antigens. In the past, the body would simply ignore damaged cells - this allowed the cancer to spread quickly and easily from one organ system to another until death occurred.

Using electroporation delivery methods, Inovio has found a way to deliver vaccines directly to cells for pick-up by a patient's DNA. Unlike previous synthetic vaccines, which were only moderately effective, but often rejected by cells, preventing DNA from interacting with the vaccine, Inovio's Syncon vaccines infiltrate cells to obtain the necessary DNA to encourage the production of suitable antigens.

Other companies working to improve synthetic vaccines include Novartis (NYSE:NVS) and Sanofi (NYSE:SNY). In 2010, Novartis partnered with Synthetic Genomics Vaccines to create synthetic seed viruses to use during influenza breakouts. From the seeds, the companies would have the ability to create large amounts of synthetic vaccines in less time.

In 2012, as a result of this partnership, along with help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, Novartis opened its first manufacturing plant to create and store synthetic virus seeds once the company receives FDA approval.

Sanofi Pasteur (a division of Sanofi) recently partnered with the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Vaccine Research to develop a universal synthetic vaccine used to treat various strains of influenza.

The Future of Nanotechnology

As a result of many years of research, scientists and others now have the ability to study individual molecules instead of large molecular systems. This allows those in the medical community to develop new and innovative treatments for countless diseases and conditions. Synthetic vaccines, used primarily to treat existing conditions, may someday be used to prevent the onset of cancer and other potentially fatal illnesses. Many offshoots including nanobiotechnology and nanooncology (study of cancer) have helped researchers specialize in the treatment and prevention of specific diseases.

Investors should realize the potential of this growing market as it could change the way patients receive treatment. With so many ways to use this technology, the market can only grow with the inclusion of preventative care. Even though there is still much to learn about DNA and how it communicates with cells, researchers now have a better understanding of how to use DNA to instruct the body when disease occurs - this is knowledge that benefits not only patients, but also researchers, physicians, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and investors.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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