Nanotechnologies for healthcare

Nanomedicine: why is small different?

Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnologies to healthcare. It uses the properties shown by materials at the nanometric scale (10-9 m), which often differ in terms of physics, chemistry or biology from the same material at a bigger scale. 

The nanometric size is also the scale of many biological mechanisms in the human body allowing nanoparticles and nanomaterials to potentially cross natural barriers to access new sites of delivery and to interact with DNA, RNA and small proteins at different levels, in blood or within organs, tissues or cells.

At the nano-scale, the surface-to-volume ratio is such that the surface properties are becoming an intrinsic parameter of the potential actions of a particle or material. Coating particles and functionalising their surfaces (even on multiple levels) are in this way extremely common approaches to increase their biocompatibility and circulation time in the blood, as well as to ensure a highly selective binding to the desired target.

Nano, in maths, means 0.000000001 or 10-9!

You could fit 5,000 nanoparticles around a single hair!!

Nanotechnologies impact all fields of healthcare

Nanomedicine has the potential to enable early detection and prevention and to drastically improve diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of many diseases, including cancer but not only. Nanomedicine has nowadays hundreds of products under clinical trials, covering all major diseases including cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, musculoskeletal and inflammatory. Enabling technologies in all healthcare areas, nanomedicine is already accounting for more than 80 marketed products, ranging from nano-delivery and pharmaceutical to medical imaging, diagnostics and biomaterials.

Nanomedicine is nothing else than “nano in medicine”. Consequently, nanomedicine products follow the same regulations as other drugs and medical devices ensuring their safety and efficacy for the patients.


Earlier and better diagnosis

In-vivo, in-vitro and combined with imaging through biomarker detection.


Smart drug delivery

Improved efficacy and/or decreased toxicity of drug delivered by nanocarriers. It allows targeted and/or personalised treatment.


New treatment options

Drug-free nanotherapeutics working by pure physico-chemical modes of action.


Optimised regenerative medicine

Nanomaterials combined with biomaterials and engineered biological material (including stem cells) to improve stability and medical functions.


Nanocomponents included in wearable devices

Remote monitoring of diseases & conditions, source of patient clinical data.

Nanomedicine applications in healthcare

Nanoparticles for safer and more efficient cancer therapies

The principal objective of nano-enabled chemotherapy is to optimise the clinical benefits/risk ratio of anti-cancer molecules thanks to smart drug delivery. The first generation of nanomedicine products consisted in encapsulating anti-cancer drugs and/or biologicals into nanocarriers, helping thereby to deliver the active ingredients directly, and only, to its targets in the body, the tumour cells for instance. This targeted delivery of drug highly enhances the treatment’s efficacy by maximizing drug uptake into cancer cells while at the same time reducing both toxicity and side effects. Today multiple drugs can be encapsulated at a fix ration in the same nanoparticle to optimize treatment

Nanoparticles for safer and more efficient cancer therapies

Radiotherapy can be optimised thanks to nanoparticles acting like radio-enhancers. After direct administration into the tumour, they drastically amplify the local effect of X-rays by producing free radicals more efficiently than water molecules. For instance, the company Nanobiotix is developing this type of nano-radio enhancers, which are now undergoing the last clinical trial phases and have been filed for market approval (CE marking). An additional advantage of these technology is that it doesn’t require new (and expensive) equipment because it fits with current clinical procedures for radiotherapy.

Nanoparticles for safer and more efficient cancer therapies

Magnetic traceable nanoparticles allow more precise tumour localisation before surgery and are safer than usual radioactive markers. Endomag commercialsed a detection system based on this mode of action in 2017

MRI Imaging can localise vessel walls injuries

Coated magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles were the first to be used for imaging atherosclerosis, i.e. blood vessels injuries, in 1996. Indeed, they are delivered directly in the macrophages, immune cells localised specifically in atherosclerotic plaques. Now, they can also be used for atherosclerosis treatment.

Microfluidic systems allow earlier, better and less-invasive diagnosis and monitoring of cancer.

Liquid biopsy would allow to measure non-invasively cancer progression by analysing biomarkers directly from blood samples. For example, a microfluidic tool currently developed by RUBYNanomed is currently evaluated in breast, prostate, colorectal and myeloma cancers.


The global nanomedicine market





Annual growth rate




How will NOBEL support the nanomedicine community?

  • The European project NOBEL is a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) under Horizon 2020 aiming to help the convergence of nanomedicine with other key enabling technologies with applications in healthcare: photonics, robotics, advanced materials and digital health. NOBEL is coordinated by the ETP-Nanomedicine.
  • Six national nanomedicine platforms are Associated Partners to the NOBEL Project: NanoMed Spain, SFNano (France), the British Society for Nanomedicine, the German NanobioMedizin Platform, Nanomed Austria and NanoMed North (Denmark / Sweden). Providing a meeting space for 7 national nanomedicine platforms and dissemination at the European level is a mission of the NOBEL Project.
  • European Technology Platforms (ETPs) represent each individual technological community at the European level and help bridging those communities with the European Commission. Six ETPs that have applications in healthcare are associated to NOBEL: ETP-Nanomedicine, Photonics21, EU-Robotics, EU-MAT, the European Society of Biomaterials and the ETP for Smart Systems Integration (EPoSS). The NOBEL Project provides them with a meeting space and dissemination by organising annual meetings of their representatives and sharing information from each of them to the HealthTech community.
  • The NOBEL Project provides the ecosystem with a roadmap of the future of HealthTech in Europe by combining the inputs of all its Associated Partners in a single vision: the Continuum of Care, a vision for the future of healthcare in Europe

    First annual meeting of the Nanotechnologies national platforms representatives

    29th May 2018, Berlin

    First annual meeting of the European Technological Platforms (ETPs) representatives

    5th June 2018, Paris

    TAB Greet & Meet at MedFIT 2018

    25th June 2018, Strasbourg

    Third NOBEL Consortium meeting

    4th October 2018, Milan

    Introducing NOBEL's vision for the future of HealthTech during INDTECH 2018

    30th October 2018, Vienna


    European Technology Platform on Nanomedicine (ETPN) /

    Do you need support to boost your nanomedicine technology on the market? See 

    EU-NCL, the European Nanomedicine Characterisation Laboratory, performs free-of-charge biological, chemical and physical characterisation of your nanomedicine product: more information on

    All terms are defined in the Glossary

    The list of technologies/products/companies described in these fact sheets is not exhaustive and does not intend to promote any particular actor of the HealthTech community nor to advertise particular product/company.