Macro­mol­e­cules in a pill? Tor­toise-in­spired cap­sule of­fers hope in an ear­ly test de­liv­er­ing in­sulin in­to stom­ach wall

For many di­a­bet­ics, nee­dles that de­liv­er their in­sulin are as cru­cial as taps that run the wa­ter they drink. But a team led by MIT and sci­en­tists from No­vo Nordisk — the world’s biggest in­sulin mak­er — are look­ing to change that. Re­port­ed in Sci­ence, the team has cre­at­ed a blue­ber­ry-sized oral cap­sule that de­liv­ers an in­sulin shot in­side the stom­ach once swal­lowed in rats and swine, and are look­ing to take the work in­to hu­mans in three years.

The cap­sule is in­spired by a leop­ard tor­toise — which bran­dish­es a shell that al­lows the African rep­tile to right it­self if it rolls on­to its back. The cap­sule em­u­lates that, so that no mat­ter how it lands in the gut, a nee­dle in­side the pill made of com­pressed freeze-dried in­sulin will ori­ent it­self to come in con­tact with the stom­ach lin­ing. Wa­ter in the stom­ach dis­solves a sug­ar disk hold­ing the nee­dle in­to place, and since the stom­ach wall does not con­tain pain re­cep­tors, the sci­en­tists an­tic­i­pate that pa­tients will not be able to feel the prick.

In an­i­mal stud­ies, the cap­sule was shown to de­liv­er enough in­sulin to low­er blood sug­ar to lev­els sim­i­lar to in­jec­tions ad­min­is­tered through skin, and the de­vice can po­ten­tial­ly be adapt­ed to de­liv­er oth­er pro­tein drugs, such as im­muno­sup­pres­sants used to treat rheuma­toid arthri­tis or in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease or even nu­cle­ic acids in­clud­ing DNA and RNA.

Bob Langer

“(This) new type of cap­sule could some­day help di­a­bet­ic pa­tients and per­haps any­one who re­quires ther­a­pies that can now on­ly be giv­en by in­jec­tion or in­fu­sion,” said MIT’s Robert Langer who was one of the se­nior au­thor’s of the study. Langer’s lab at MIT has spawned a string of bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies.

“(If) a per­son were to move around or the stom­ach were to growl, the de­vice would not move from its pre­ferred ori­en­ta­tion,” said the study’s lead au­thor and MIT grad­u­ate stu­dent Alex Abram­son.

Once in­ject­ed in­to the stom­ach wall, the cap­sule re­leas­es its con­tents, and dis­in­te­grates as it pass­es harm­less­ly through the di­ges­tive sys­tem and is even­tu­al­ly elim­i­nat­ed, the re­searchers said re­fer­ring to an­i­mal da­ta in their re­port pub­lished on Thurs­day.

The re­search was fund­ed by No­vo Nordisk $NVO, the NIH and oth­ers. To be sure, hu­man tri­als are still to come and must be cleared be­fore the de­vice can be safe­ly and ef­fec­tive­ly used. But for the Dan­ish drug­mak­er, the suc­cess­ful de­ploy­ment of the prod­uct could rein­vig­o­rate its long-term growth as it slow­ly moves away from its de­pen­dence of tra­di­tion­al in­jectable in­sulin amidst in­ten­si­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion and pric­ing pres­sure with­in the di­a­betes mar­ket.

Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at with any issues.

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Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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Hal Barron. GSK

GSK's Hal Bar­ron her­alds their sec­ond pos­i­tive piv­otal for cru­cial an­ti-BC­MA ther­a­py, point­ing to a push for quick OKs in a crowd­ed field

Hal Barron has his second positive round of Phase III data in hand for his anti-BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin (GSK2857916). And GSK’s research chief says the data paves the way for their drive in search of an FDA approval for treating multiple myeloma.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this drug for GSK, a cornerstone of Barron’s campaign to make a dramatic impact on the oncology market and provide some long-lost excitement for the pharma giant’s pipeline. They’re putting this BCMA program at the front of that charge — looking to lead a host of rivals all aimed at the same target.

We don’t know what the data are yet, but DREAMM-2 falls on the heels of a promising set of data delivered 5 months ago for DREAMM-1. There investigators noted that complete responses among treatment-resistant patients rose to 15% in the extra year’s worth of data to look over, with a median progression-free survival rate of 12 months, up from 7.9 months reported earlier. The median duration of response was 14.3 months.

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UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Bob Smith, Pfizer

Pfiz­er is mak­ing a $500M state­ment to­day: Here’s how you be­come a lead play­er in the boom­ing gene ther­a­py sec­tor

Three years ago, Pfizer anted up $150 million in cash to buy Bamboo Therapeutics in Chapel Hill, NC as it cautiously stuck a toe in the small gene therapy pool of research and development.

Company execs followed up a year later with a $100 million expansion of the manufacturing operations they picked up in that deal for the UNC spinout, which came with $495 million in milestones.

And now they’re really going for it.

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Video: Putting the AI in R&D — with Badhri Srini­vasan, Tony Wood, Rosana Kapeller, Hugo Ceule­mans, Saurabh Sa­ha and Shoibal Dat­ta

During BIO this year, I had a chance to moderate a panel among some of the top tech experts in biopharma on their real-world use of artificial intelligence in R&D. There’s been a lot said about the potential of AI, but I wanted to explore more about what some of the larger players are actually doing with this technology today, and how they see it advancing in the future. It was a fascinating exchange, which you can see here. The transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity. — John Carroll

As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi/treme com­bo strikes out — again — in lung can­cer. Is it time for last rites?

AstraZeneca bet big on the future of their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with the experimental CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab. But once again it’s gone down to defeat in a major Phase III study — while adding damage to the theory involving targeting cancer with a high tumor mutational burden.

Early Wednesday the pharma giant announced that their NEPTUNE study had failed, with the combination unable to beat standard chemo at overall survival in high TMB cases of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get hard data until later in the year, but the drumbeat of failures will call into question what — if any — future this combination can have left.

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Why would Am­gen want to buy Alex­ion? An­a­lysts call hot­ly ru­mored takeover un­like­ly, but seize the mo­ment

A rumor that Amgen is closing in on buyout deal for Alexion has sparked a guessing game on just what kind of M&A strategy Amgen is pursuing and how much Alexion is worth.

Mizuho analyst Salim Syed first lent credence to the report out of the Spanish news outlet Intereconomía, which said Amgen is bidding as much as $200 per share. While the source may be questionable, “the concept of this happening doesn’t sound too crazy to me,” he wrote.