Contrast Agents market current trends and upcoming technologies

The use Medical imaging technologies have lead to rapid diagnosis and treating of a wide range of disease, hence in order to increase their sensitivity and utility, many imaging technologies such as CT and MRI rely on intravenous administration of contrast agents. The current generation of contrast agents has undesirable drawbacks such as, lack of tissue specificity and systemic toxicity issues. Hence, there are advances made in nanotechnology and materials science wherein, researchers are now creating a new generation of contrast agents that can overcome many of these challenges, and are capable of providing more sensitive and specific information. In order to meet the unmet needs in various disease conditions, the companies are expanding their product applications.

Increase in incidence & prevalence of disease conditions, increase in number of diagnostic procedures, increase in aging population are driving contrast agent market growth. In addition, expansion in application of contrast agent, growth of medical imaging in emerging market, increasing research activities and favorable reimbursement scenario are the opportunities likely to propel the growth of contrast agent market. As estimated by IQ4I Research, the contrast agent global market is estimated to reach $6.879.0 million by 2025.

Coronary heart disease is a major cause of death worldwide, in the United States alone 370,000 people dies annually with proper diagnosis the large number of deaths can be avoided to address this unmet need the contrast agent manufactures are coming up newer contrast agents. For instance, Visipaque (iodixanol) by GE Healthcare received FDA approval in for expanded indication for use in coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) for diagnostic evaluation of adult and pediatric patients 12 years of age or older with suspected coronary artery disease. This new indication allows physicians to non-invasively image the coronary arteries which thereby eliminate the use of traditional invasive coronary angiography to diagnose coronary artery disease. Likewise, MultiHance by Bracco received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for an extension to include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the central nervous system (CNS) in pediatric patients younger than 2 years of age (including term neonates) in order to visualize lesions with abnormal blood-brain barrier or abnormal vascularity of the brain, spine and associated tissues.

The liver cirrhosis is a condition of severe scarring of liver due to increase in risk factors such as Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Approximately about 3.5 to 4.6 million people in the U.S. are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus. About 2,000 people die of hepatitis C annually in the U.S which is still an unmet need, hence the companies are coming up with hepatobiliary contrast agents for treating liver cirrhosis. Initially the microbubble based contrast agent was approved for cardiovascular purpose only, but due to increase in diseases related to liver, the companies have come up with new contrast agent this application. For instance, Lumason (sulfur hexafluoride lipid microspheres) by a Bracco was approved by the FDA for examination of liver in adults and pediatric patients.

Another ultrasound contrast agent by Bracco namely SonoVue (sulphur hexafluoride microbubbles) is the first approved ultrasound contrast agent in China for use in ultrasonography of the urinary tract for the evaluation of suspected or known vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) in pediatric patients. 

A numbers of technological advancements are taking place in contrast agents due to efforts by the companies and research institutes of universities with products in various phases of development. For instance, in January 2018, Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced initiation of a program to develop contrast agents with reduced renal toxicity, which is currently in proof of concept.

Spago Nanomedical has developed the contrast medium SpagoPix, which has unique features that create the prerequisites for making the most of the potential in MRI technology. The nanoparticle SpagoPix is ​​designed to selectively accumulate in tumor tissue. The mechanism of action is based on a well-described principle called Enhanced Permeability and Retention (EPR). Spago Nanomedical AB has signed an agreement with the Swedish contract research company CTC Clinical Trial Consultants AB to conduct the first clinical trial with SpagoPix.

California Institute of Technology is developing MRI contrast agents that can be erased with ultrasound and is currently in preclinical study. The new technology relies on nanoscale structures called gas vesicles, which are naturally produced by some microbes. Gas vesicles consist of a protein shell with a hollow interior and are used by the microbes as flotation devices to regulate access to light and nutrients. Likewise, Alzeca Biosciences, Inc., an early-stage healthcare diagnostic company focused on developing novel MRI-based targeted imaging agents for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

International Institute for Nanotechnology, Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Northwestern University, Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University and others are develping self-assembling protein nanocage as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The protein nanocage is derived from genetically engineered ferritin from Archaeoglobus fulgidus (AfFtnAA). Iron (Fe) was loaded in a controlled manner within the core of the ferritin nanocage, resulting in the formation of iron oxide magnetic nanostructures (MNS).

School of Radiation Medicine and Protection, School for Radiological and Interdisciplinary Sciences (RAD-X), Collaborative Innovation Center of Radiation Medicine of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions, Soochow University and others are working on new contrast agent namely bismuth as the fabricated Bi2S3 nanorods which act as contrast agents for X-ray computed tomography (CT) and photoacoustic (PA) imaging as well as good biocompatibility. The Bismuth (Bi2S3 nanoagents) could potentiate the lethal effects of radiation viaamplifying the local radiation dose and enhancing the anti-tumor efficacy of RT by augmenting the photo-thermal effect in case both in vitro and in vivo studies.

There is tremendous increase in research activities for contrast which is supported with funding from different institutes. For instance, Ferric Contrast Company received $225,000 Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) fund in 2017 in for developing iron-based contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which is an alternative to the gadolinium complexes that have traditionally been employed in MRI. Likewise, Inlighta Biosciences, LLC received a $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute in 2017 for development of an improved MRI contrast agent i.e. ProCA32 an next generation MRI contrast agents that could be utilized for early detection of primary and metastasized liver cancers and the research is done through collaboration between Inlighta Biosciences, Georgia State University and Emory University. The funding is used in validation of ProCA32 and used for toxicology  study which is required to support an application to the FDA for human clinical trials. Brigham and Women’s Hospital have sponsored clinical trial of Ferumoxytol as a Contrast Agent for Pulmonary Magnetic Resonance Angiography which is in Phase 2 clinical trials. Another clinical trial sponsed by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for Ferumoxytol – Iron Oxide Nanoparticle Magnetic Resonance Dynamic Contrast Enhanced MRI and currently in early phase 1 clinical. . Hence these all current trends and upcoming product technologies would boost the market for contrast agents.

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