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September 3, 2013
A Drug Delivery Method You Haven't Thought Of
Word came last week that Google Ventures is funding a small outfit called Rani Biotechnology. They're trying to solve a small problem that's caught the attention of a few people now and then: making large protein drugs orally available.
Well, Google has a reputation for bankrolling some long-shot ideas, and any attempt to make proteins available this way is, by definition, a long shot. On Twitter, Andy Biotech sent around a link to this patent, which seems to have some of Rani's approach in it. If so, it's a surprising mixture of high and low tech. The drugs would be administered in a capsule, carefully formulated both chemically and physically. And when the capsule gets down into the small intestine, according to the patent, a spring-loaded mechanism is signaled to release and tiny needles pop out of its sides, delivering the protein cargo through the intestinal wall. To me, this looks less like an oral dosage than an i.v. that you swallow.
But getting that to work is probably easier than figuring out a way to make proteins survive in the gut. One can think of numerous ways that this could go wrong, but in drug development, there are always numerous ways that things could go wrong. The proof will be in the clinic, and I'm glad that someone is willing to pay to find out if this works.
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