Please login to the form below

MIT reveals new pill to deliver insulin

A new MIT research project, sponsored by Novo Nordisk, is aiming to deliver insulin orally with a pill that releases medicine in the stomach lining. Dina Patel interviews the team and reveals the innovative engineering behind the pill.

Taking inspiration from the leopard tortoise, an MIT research project sponsored by Novo Nordisk is aiming to deliver insulin orally with a pill that releases its medicine in the stomach lining, removing the need for injections. Dina Patel speaks to the lead author of the paper and MIT Chemical Engineering graduate student Alex Abramson and Ester Caffarel-Salvador, Postdoctoral Research Associate at MIT.

Why do we need to deliver insulin orally when we can use injections?

Alex: This device enables the delivery of all biologic drugs, not just insulin. We expect it could be used for nucleic acid delivery, protein, peptide, and antibody delivery. It has the capacity to transform how we deliver all of these drugs. A lot of companies will kill projects that involve macro molecule drugs requiring injections because they only offer an incremental improvement over an existing small molecule drug. They know people won’t want to take that injection over a pill that works almost as well, these macro molecule drugs which would have required an injection aren’t suitable for the market. We expect a huge amount of the macro molecule drug projects currently being killed by pharmaceutical companies could really benefit from this new technology for oral delivery.

Ester: We also anticipate that patients will not feel any pain from taking this pill. The gastrointestinal tract does not have pain receptors and, when tested in pigs, we didn’t observe any evidence of discomfort. We’ve looked closely into this and the safety of the device.

What have been the core research findings?

AA: When developing this pill, we created three new innovations. The first is the selfrighting system. I learned about a great mathematician in Hungary who had done a lot of research on the self-orienting nature of turtles and tortoises. We were inspired by the leopard tortoise – a tortoise found in eastern and southern Africa that can re-orient itself very easily based on its shape. It has a shell with a high, steep dome, allowing it to right itself when it rolls onto its back. Similarly, our pill has a shape close to the leopard tortoise shell and that makes it easy for it to reorient itself if it lands in a direction that isn’t facing the stomach tissue wall.

The second breakthrough was the sugarbased trigger, which ensures the pill doesn’t fire in the oesophagus when it’s ingested, instead it always fires in the stomach. The trigger senses the humidity in the gastrointestinal tract and that starts a timer. The sugar begins to dissolve and after about five minutes, it releases a compressed spring which pushes the drug into the tissue.

The last finding is the solid needle made almost completely out of insulin and other biological drugs. It allows us to deliver a clinically relevant dose. If we weren’t using a needle made almost completely out of drug, then we wouldn’t be able to deliver enough of the insulin.

What was your role in the project?

AA: This has been my main focus for the past couple of years. It’s my thesis project and I helped coordinate the efforts between MIT and Novo Nordisk. My role consisted of developing the idea to make a self-orienting device and working on the amount of force necessary to inject the needle. I was also involved in making the sugar-based hydration mechanism and a solid dose of the needle.

ECS: The research began in August 2015. The lab is a very collaborative environment. We have a multidisciplinary team composed of technical assistants, professors, postdoctoral associates and many undergraduate students that visit for a term, the summer or even the whole year.

Alex and I have different areas of expertise. Alex is a chemical engineer and I am a bio-technologist and biochemist by training – our skills complement each other. I was involved in the formulation aspect of the prototype. I focused on tissue characterisation, on researching formulations and on the stability of the drugs. I tested the loading capacity of the device and optimised the analytical methods to quantify insulin. For example, I confirmed the insulin was still active when pressed into the device and ensured the properties didn’t change considering that we are submitting the insulin and other biologics to a high pressure during the fabrication process. Initially, this was a three-year collaboration project, but, now that we have this prototype, we have extended the collaboration.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

24th June 2019

Share

Tags

Company Details

Blue Latitude Health

+44 203 328 1840

Contact Website

Address:
Blue Latitude Health (UK)
140 Aldersgate Street
London
EC1A 4HY
United Kingdom

Latest content on this profile

Precision paediatrics: Treating patients with CAR-T
Dr Stuart Adams specialises in using T-cell therapy to treat paediatric patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Here, he explains what it was like to develop and deliver a groundbreaking CAR-T therapy for the first patient in Europe, and how the centre of excellence has adapted to make precision medicine a reality
Blue Latitude Health
What does it mean to be an agile organisation
We spoke with Philip Atkinson to learn how healthcare and pharmaceutical companies can rapidly respond to changes in the market.
Blue Latitude Health
Battling breast cancer with precision medicine (Part 2)
Dr Mark Moasser treated breast cancer survivor Laura Holmes-Haddad (interviewed in part one) with an innovative precision medicine, which at the time was yet to be approved. Here he gives his side of the story and explains how industry can help oncologists treat more patients with targeted therapies.
Blue Latitude Health
Battling breast cancer with precision medicine (Part 1)
Laura Holmes Haddad is a breast cancer survivor. She made the incredibly brave decision to participate in a PARP inhibitor precision medicine trial. Here, the author and precision medicine advocate tells her story and explains what industry needs to remember when treating cancer patients with precision medicine.
Blue Latitude Health
The role of brain health in treating MS
Blue Latitude Health speaks to Professor Gavin Giovannoni, key opinion leader and Chair of Neurology, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, about his theories on brain health, the importance of a holistic approach to MS and why digital technology is the future of effective MS care.
Blue Latitude Health
Diagnosing MS: are we getting it right?
Multi-award-winning patient advocate, Trishna Bharadia, walks through the complications involved with an MS diagnosis, including the challenges for healthcare systems and a handful of insightful patient stories.
Blue Latitude Health