Not content to own a good chunk of the Internet, Google has just invested in oral insulin.
Google Ventures is part of a team investing $10 million into Rani Therapeutics, a California startup that focuses on developing oral alternatives for injectable drugs, including insulin. According to a medGadget report, Rani Therapeutics is trying to find a way to upend the injectables marketplace by developing innovative ways to deliver medicine orally.
Google Ventures’ contribution, though small, does generate more headlines than the average $10 million investment. Some of that is brand mystique, as Google is equated with data-driven solutions. Also, there’s a 500-pound-gorilla feel about Google Venture’s every move, as it’s perceived to have near-bottomless coffers. A few million dollars is pocket change for Google, and some wonder what would happen if it put its full weight behind a medical project.
Even with Google Ventures getting involved, there’s no reason to believe that oral insulin is right around the corner. Insulin pills have been a primary goal of diabetes researchers for many years, and there are decades-old projects to develop them. A major hurdle is getting the active insulin molecules past the digestive system and into the the intestinal tract, where they can move on to the liver and into the bloodstream like normally secreted insulin.
Oramed, an Israeli company (see Insulin Nation’s “Insulin Pills Move Closer to Reality”), believes its delivery technology will accomplish that goal. Its clinical trials in the U.S. will begin later this year or early in 2014. However, there is plenty of room on this bus for other approaches. The net benefit of oral insulin’s path to the bloodstream, even with a relatively slow absorption rate, is reduced chance of hypoglycemia caused by undiluted insulin doses delivered by injections.