Rani nabs $69M Series E for its stab at a robotic pill to replace injectable drugs
Rani Therapeutics has tapped the venture well again, this time raising a sweet $69 million for its push to make injectable medicines go down in a more delightful way.
The San Jose, CA-based biotech is working on a robotic pill — dubbed the RaniPill — that’s designed to replace injectable drugs like insulin. Rani says the Series E round, which brings its total raise to $211 million, will go straight into clinical development and manufacturing for the candidate.
The idea of transforming injectables into pills isn’t a new one. But a string of efforts to evade the enzymes that break down an oral drug before it can be absorbed have largely hit a wall. Rani’s candidate has an enteric coating that protects it from the acidic ambience of the stomach, then dissolves as the pill moves into the intestine and pH levels rise. A chemical reaction inflates a balloon, and the pressure pushes a dissolvable microneedle into the intestinal wall.
The injection is pain-free, a Rani spokesperson said. And because the technology is agnostic to the payload, Rani believes it could be used to deliver peptides, proteins and antibodies.
So far the Novartis and Takeda-partnered company has tested 9 molecules in preclinical studies, and conducted clinical trials with adalimumab, GLP-1 and octreotide — a monoclonal antibody, metabolic drug and peptide, respectively.
Back in January, Rani said it got the results it was looking for in an early-stage trial with octreotide. A total of 58 volunteers were enrolled, 52 of whom got the RaniPill version, and 6 of whom got an intravenous injection with an identical dose. Rani CEO Mir Imran told Endpoints News at the time that the company proved its hypothesis: The patients didn’t feel a thing.
“And then the second endpoint was bioavailability, which turned out to be greater than 70%. Which is what exactly we had seen in our preclinical testing,” he said, adding that Rani would conduct a head-to-head study to prove equivalence or non-inferiority to the injectable version.
Imran also said in January that an IPO was a “distinct possibility” in about a year — which would be just about any time now. When asked on Friday if an IPO is in the near future, the company didn’t say yes. But they didn’t exactly say no, either.
“Right now we are focused on advancing the clinical trials of our internal pipeline of drugs, and our in-house manufacturing of the RaniPill,” a spokesperson said. “We do not comment on future financing plans.”
Last year, a team of MIT and Novo Nordisk scientists reported positive animal results from their own stab at a robotic pill. Their candidate consists of a needle inside a capsule made of compressed freeze-dried insulin. Upon contact with the wet inner lining of the stomach, a sugar disk holding the needle in place dissolves.
The pill delivered enough insulin to lower animals’ blood sugar to levels similar to injections, according to the researchers, who said they were still a few years away from the clinic.