The new Insulin pill breakthrough
Harvard team uses food additive to chaperone insulin through the digestive system to the bloodstream; creating a new therapeutic path
Oral delivery of insulin has been actively researched for decades. Injections are painful and inconvenient. People often delay starting insulin therapy because they don’t want injections. Oral therapy would increase patient compliance.
Oramed and Rani Therapeutics are early leaders in the oral delivery of insulin. They take very different approaches with each having their own challenges compared to the food additive path envisioned by Dr. Samir Mitragotri of Harvard University (bio).
Geranic acid is a fatty acid that presents as an oily liquid. It naturally occurs in tea, tomato, and wine and synthetic geranic acid is commonly used to add orange, tea, mint, ripe fruit, and melon notes to foods (link).
Dr. Mitragotri’s team first used geranic acid in the form of an ionic liquid carrier for topical skin therapies. Later they discovered that it effectively encapsulates biologics such as insulin within the stomach and small intestine and improves capillary absorption. These properties are the key to this breakthrough. Furthermore, the path to regulatory approval would be facilitated because the contents of Harvard’s insulin pill comprise of ingredients that are considered as generally safe plus insulin.
“We are very excited about the opportunities opened up by our ionic liquid technology for oral delivery of insulin. This technology works akin to a swiss army knife, providing tools to address multiple hurdles. Our ionic liquid performs three key tasks. It protects insulin from enzymatic degradation, it thins out the mucus barrier in the intestine and third, it enhances the permeation of insulin across the intestinal membrane. These three hurdles collectively present a challenge for oral insulin delivery and our ionic liquid addresses all three hurdles”, said Dr. Mitragotri, “Next studies should focus on detailed assessment of safety and advancing the technology into the clinic”, he added.