While reading an interesting article about the link between academic research and commercial products, I stumbled upon an intriguing company experimenting with a novel -- and tiny -- new way to fight cancer.

Insert Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Arrowhead Research (NASDAQ:ARWR), specializes in developing promising nanotechnology-related university research. It seems that Insert Therapeutics is focusing on an innovative new nanotech-based platform for the treatment of cancer, and it's helping to shepherd the platform through the FDA clinical phase process. The drug in question is only in phase 1 of FDA trials, so it still has a long way to go, and there's absolutely no guarantee that it will ever receive final approval.

Nevertheless, the platform is so compelling because the particles it uses are just 40 nanometers in diameter. That makes them big enough to prevent being screened out by the kidneys, but small enough to enter individual tumors. According to the article, this creates sort of a "FedEx" delivery process for cancer treatment. The hope is that since the drugs are delivered to their target with pinpoint accuracy, they'll be much more effective. More significantly, because fewer drugs can be used to acheive the same result, there's also a hope that patients can avoid many of the unpleasant side effects currently associated with cancer treatment, such as nausea and hair loss.

In addition to Insert Therapeutics, Arrowhead also owns majority stakes in Calando Pharmaceuticals, an interesting long-term play in the field of RNA interference, and Unidym. You might recall that earlier this spring, the latter acquired Carbon Nanotechnologies -- one of the world's best-known private companies making carbon nanotubes. As I explained in this article, its carbon nanotubes offer some intriguing possibilities for the creation of high-performance, cost-effective flexible electronics.

Like Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Harris & Harris (NASDAQ:TINY), Arrowhead is a more speculative play, and it will take some time for its various nanotechnology investments to mature. But by helping university researchers turn their more promising nanotech-related inventions into actual products, it also offers investors some exciting possibilities.

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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich owns stock in Harris & Harris but not in Arrowhead. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.