Aptamers are oligonucleotides or peptide bioreceptors that can selectively bind to specific molecular targets with high affinity. Aptamers have proved to be an excellent alternative to monoclonal antibodies. Due to its properties, aptamers have found application in therapeutic drug development, diagnostics, and biotechnology research and development. Aptamers are non-immunogenic, non-toxic and also have fewer side effects as compared to monoclonal antibodies because of the absence of Fc region. Smaller size permits easy entry of aptamers into the target cells and increases efficiency at lower concentrations. Due to their thermal stability, aptamers remain viable during transport and storage. Moreover aptamers are manufactured through chemical synthesis process hence have lower cost of production. This also allows easy scale-up of manufacturing process that is very difficult with monoclonal antibodies. These factors have made aptamers as excellent candidates for therapeutic drug development.
Various research institutes and pharma companies are conducting rigorous research for development of aptamers cancer treatment. Numerous companies have invested heavily in aptamers drug development. AptaTargets a Spanish biopharmaceutical company raised over US$ 3 million in funding in May 2017. The company plans to use these finds for conducting preclinical phase and advance into phase I and phase II clinical trials on its first drug candidate ApTOLL that is targeted for treatment of acute ischemic stroke. NOXXON and Anisoma are other key companies involved in therapeutic aptamers research. With increasing research and development activities and scientific publications advocating importance of aptamers in therapeutics, companies specializing in large scale aptamer manufacturing have emerged in the recent past. This has boosted the contract manufacturing organization (CMO) business. Currently systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX) method is widely used for aptamer synthesis. Although various modified versions of the parent method have evolved, it is expected that more productive and cost effective alternatives would emerge in the future. This would fuel the global aptamers market.
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Discovery of biomarkers that play important role in disease progression has contributed immensely to development of target therapy. Diseases such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, viral diseases, cardiac disorders and neurology disorders have been main attraction for development of aptamer targeted therapy. Aptamers are forecast to become an inevitable part of targeted therapy in the near future. Treatment of viral infections is an emerging application of aptamers; however majority of the research is focused on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis C virus (HCV), and Hepatitis B virus (HBV).
Key players in the aptamers market include NOXXON Pharma AG, Ophthotech Corp, Archemix (Baxter), NeXstar (Gilead), AptaMatrix, Aptus Biotech, Base Pair Biotechnologies and Vivonics among others.
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