The Stack Archive

Robotic pills to treat diabetes and arthritis

Wed 27 May 2015

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced yesterday that it would be partnering with U.S. startup Rani Therapeutics to investigate the potential of robotic pills.

The drug delivery platform developed by Rani administers “large-molecule” drugs without the need for needles. Insulin for diabetes patients and other injectable drugs, such as treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and multiple sclerosis, would be made available for the first time as oral medicine.

This brand new method uses tiny robots with needles made of sugar which push against the wall of the intestines to inject the drug into the bloodstream. The pill is swallowed orally like a normal capsule tablet.

In a company press release Mir Imran, chairman and chief executive officer at Rani Therapeutics, stated: “The delivery of large molecules orally is considered the holy grail of drug delivery, and there have been many failed attempts before us. We understand the magnitude of the problem we are pursuing, and we are confident that our approach has the potential to radically change the way biologics are administered to patients. We are delighted to be embarking on this journey with Novartis, one of the world’s largest and most successful pharma companies.”

Imran added that the firm would be running a series of studies over the next two years to investigate which of Novartis’ drugs can be used with the robotic pill.

Joe Jimenez, CEO at Novartis, said in an interview last year that “health technology” was one of the main areas of focus for his company. The pharma group entered an agreement with Google in 2014 to design smart contact lenses that track blood glucose levels and restore focus.

Novartis has also partnered with Proteus Digital Health to create pills containing chips to keep an eye on whether a patient is sticking to their prescription.

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