The company notes that the vector could be a valuable tool in experiments designed to elucidate gene function. The goal is to eventually link these functions to genetic therapies, whereby foreign genes are transferred into a body and would function like a drug.
Currently, vectors fall into one of two types; either viruses or synthetic materials. A good vector must be able to transfer the gene efficiently and have low cellular toxicity. There have been serious concerns of late with regard to the safety of viral gene vectors, culminating in the suspension of clinical trials of retrovirus-based gene therapy last year after two patients in a French study went on to develop leukaemia after being treated for severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (SCID).
This has led to a lot of interest in non-viral vectors, with market research reported by Kalorama last year suggesting that the world market for viral and non-viral vectors would reach parity in 2005, even though viral carriers have been dominant up to now. The same report estimates that the total market for gene therapies will reach $12 billion in 2007 and a whopping $45 billion by 2010.
Nitto Denko's new polymer is just on non-viral approach used for gene delivery. Other carriers include cationic lipids, artificial chromosomes, stem cells and physical methods. Polymer materials have been of interest but, up to this point, have been unable to meet the high gene transfer/low cell toxicity requirement, according to the Japanese firm.
Nitto Denko said that the low potential for toxicity of its biodegradable polymer make it suitable as a research tool but also could revitalise progress in the development of gene therapies in the clinic.
The company has just launched the carrier reagents through Q-Biogene, a biomaterials sales company with subsidiaries in the US and Europe, under the product name CytoPure. It will be sold by Funakoshi in Japan.
In the near term, the Japanese firm is hoping that CytoPure can capture a 10 per cent share of the $200 million cellular-level gene transfer research market. In the future, it hopes to develop applications for the animal experiment market and the genetic therapy sectors.