Rani’s platform consists of a polymer pill with a pH-sensitive outer layer. When ingested, the outer layer dissolves in the intestine, exposing a tiny valve that releases citric acid and sodium bicarbonate.
These chemicals react, creating energy which inflates a balloon-like structure surrounded by tiny sugar needles preloaded with the drug that lodges itself into the intestinal wall, delivering the API painlessly.
“The delivery of large molecules orally is considered the holy grail of drug delivery, and there have been many failed attempts before us,” said Rani’s CEO Mir Imran.
“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 to patients,” he continued.
Under the agreement, financial terms of which were not provided, Novartis and Ranil will collaborate to test whether the technology can be used to deliver various biologic drug candidates from the former’s pipeline.
"To date, all attempts to convert biologics to pills have failed," a Novartis spokesperson told in-Pharmatechnologist.com. "If successful, Novartis in collaboration with Rani Therapeutics would most likely be the first company to provide oral delivery of biologics to patients."
The collaboration will run for 18-24 months, after which the Swiss Pharma Giant will have the right to enter into a more extensive collaboration.
The drug delivery platform was created by InCube Labs. In 2012, the San Diego-based biotech founded Rani as an independent organisation, granting it rights to use the technology and to seek licensees in a move funded in part by Google Ventures and VentureHealth.
News of the Novartis agreement follows just a day after Ranil announced it had closed a Series C funding, which saw further investment from Google.