Rani Therapeutics has developed a robotic pill to deliver pain-free subcutaneous injections

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Rani Therapeutics has developed a robotic pill to deliver pain-free subcutaneous injections.
Image: Rani Therapeutics

For millions of people around the world with conditions like diabetes or clotting disorders, subcutaneous injections are a part of daily life. Although most patients get used to them over time, it doesn’t change the fact that each injection is painful. Yet, injections are necessary because some medications get destroyed while passing through the stomach and its highly acidic environment.

While we can’t change our biology, Rani Therapeutics thinks that it has a better way to deliver subcutaneous injections, TechCrunch reports. The company has developed a “robotic pill” that is swallowed before automatically giving an injection in the patient’s intestines. Yes, it sounds crazy.

However, the approach just might work. It would be a revolutionary new way to take medications for those with conditions that rely on subcutaneous injections.

Smart Pill

Medications have come a long way over the past few decades. Today’s pharmaceutical companies are able to do incredible things with their drugs to help increase their effectiveness and decrease unwanted side-effects.

Rani Therapeutic’s approach, however, is novel. It was founded by Mir Imran, an electrical and biomedical engineer who previously founded more than 20 other medical device companies. Irman was also involved with creating the world’s first implantable cardiac defibrillator.

Now, he and his team at Rani are focused on eliminating the pain associated with subcutaneous injections. He tells TechCrunch, “The technology itself started with a very simple thesis. We thought, why can’t we create a pill that contains a biologic drug that you swallow, and once it gets to the intestine, it transforms itself and delivers a pain-free injection?”

That’s exactly what Rani Therapeutics has designed. The company’s robotic pill features a pH-sensitive coating that helps it survive the stomach. Then, once it reaches the safety of the small intestine, the coating dissolves and the pill starts to create carbon dioxide.

This process causes tiny polymer needles filled with the necessary drug to inject into the wall of the small intestine. After the medication is delivered, the capsule deflates and is passed harmlessly when the patient uses the bathroom.

Irman notes that, since the intestines don’t have the same type of pain sensors as our skin, the injection is painless. That isn’t the only benefit, however. Since the walls of the small intestine have a richer supply of blood vessels, injecting medication there is more efficient than doing so in the skin, TechCrunch reports.

Real-World Use

Rani Therapeutics has already found success with its robotic pill in clinical trials. A study last January found that it is both safe and effective for delivering the subcutaneous drug that treats acromegaly.

TechCrunch notes that the company intends to do additional clinical trials at some point in the future. Last year, Rani raised $69 million, which will help it continue to develop its unique medication delivery system.

Irman tells TechCrunch, “This will finance us for the next several years. Our approach to the business is to make the technology very robust and manufacturable.”

That’s good news for anyone that relies on subcutaneous injections. Although a system like Rani’s won’t be adopted overnight, it offers a glimmer of hope for a less painful future.

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