At the end of the 19th century, the German scientist Paul Ehrlich began to realize that certain chemicals could have highly specific effects on certain diseases. He began to write about the possibility that a drug could act like a magische kugel—magic bullet—that killed only the organism causing disease, and nothing else.
Today, scientists are amassing a new arsenal of magic bullets, and new companies are proliferating to carry them forward in the war against cancer and a host of other diseases and disorders.
Advances in cell replacement therapy, for example, are making it possible for scientists to genetically engineer a patient’s own T-cells so they can specifically target antigens expressed only on the surface of tumor cells. Similar innovations in regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy are likewise opening the way for potentially revolutionary treatments of degenerative eye diseases, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.