Emerging Tech

Human trials take inflating needle-filled smart pills closer to market

Who wouldn’t want to be able to replace regular painful injections with a smart pill? That’s what San Jose, California-based company Rani Therapeutics has developed with its innovative RaniPill. While the RaniPill looks like a regular capsule, when its outer layer dissolves in the intestine, a miniature balloon inflates inside and pushes a tiny needle into the intestinal muscular wall to inject its contents. Because the intestine has no pain receptors, all of this happens without the patient feeling a thing. The balloon then deflates, and the pill can be passed via the, err, normal channels.

On the surface, this high-tech pill of the future sounds like the kind of Rube Goldberg solution that will never make it past initial prototypes. You’d be wrong, however, since the RaniPill just underwent a human trial, taking it one step closer to market. In the trial, participants were given RaniPills containing octreotide, a drug prescribed as part of the treatment for certain types of tumors found in the intestines and pancreas.

RaniPill in hand
Rani Therapeutics

“The phase one clinical study of Octreotide-RP was conducted in Australia with 58 healthy adult volunteers,” Mir Imran, CEO and founder of Rani Therapeutics, told Digital Trends. “The test group was comprised of both male and female subjects aged 18 to 55. Of the 58 participants, 52 were dosed with Octreotide-RP, the RaniPill loaded with octreotide. A control group of six participants was given an intravenous injection of an identical dose of octreotide.”

The study confirmed the RaniPill was well tolerated, meaning the subjects could easily swallow it and did not feel any pain or other unpleasant sensations. It also demonstrated that the RaniPill can safely and effectively deliver drugs into the intestinal wall in the appropriate dosage.

The company is planning further tests later in the year, and is in discussions with pharmaceutical companies and regulators in the United States and Europe. Initially, the company hopes to use the RaniPill to deliver nine drugs, including octreotide and insulin.

“[When it will make it to market depends] on the timing of FDA approval,” Imran continued. “We are engaged in discussions with the FDA, and expect approval in two to three years.”

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