Drug design, development and delivery are currently undergoing a revolution driven by vastly increased knowledge about how drugs interact with biological systems. New generations of drugs often gain their great specificity and potency through complex molecular structures and this has fuelled much research into how to best create these complex bioactive molecules with the right structure and with as few by-products as possible. This can be, for example, by manipulating and engineering enzymes that can mimic those that naturally produce molecules within the body.
Besides the development of active biomolecules, a huge amount of current drug research focuses on the means of delivering as precise a dose of the drug as possible to the site where it is needed, thereby saving the patient from exposure to large, and potentially dangerous, systemic levels of the drug.
Nanoscience and nanotechnology may play an important role in both understanding the mechanisms by which a drug works and in helping to target the drug to its intended site. As well as vectors such as viruses that can target a drug, or a gene, to a particular type of cell or tissue, novel nanomaterials such as dendrimers or nanosomes can be used to transport drugs to their target sites. This may be combined, for example in novel cancer therapies, with nanoparticles that may be used to activate or release the drug once it has reached its desired site, e.g. by a magnetic field or other external low-level energy sources like light or ultrasound.