Novartis signs oral biologics pact with Rani

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Novartis has linked up with the USA’s Rani Therapeutics to develop the latter’s oral biologics drug delivery programme.

Founded in 2012 and spun out of InCube Labs, Rani has developed technology to convert injectables such as TNF-alpha inhibitors, interleukin antibodies, glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists and basal insulin into ‘robotic pills’. This involves capsules which contain small needles made of sugar that are pushed into the wall of the intestine to deliver the compound.

Rani will run feasibility studies over the next 18-24 months to evaluate how selected Novartis biologics can be delivered into the bloodstream using this unique route of administration. Rani’s chief executive Mir Imran said the delivery of large molecules orally “is considered the holy grail of drug delivery, and there have been many failed attempts before us”. 

He added that “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”. Rani also announced it has closed its series C round of funding in which Novartis and previous backer Google have participated.

Novartis is already working with Google to develop a smart contact lens, which will look at measuring glucose levels in diabetic patients, and on a ‘chip-in-a-pill’ with Proteus Digital Health.