Google invests in oral drug delivery for insulin, other biologics

Google's ($GOOG) venture arm is one of three firms contributing to an investment of more than $10 million in Rani Therapeutics, a drug-delivery company focusing on novel oral treatments.

The San Jose, CA-based company is working on a platform to convert injectable forms of insulin and TNF inhibitors into oral capsules, and the funding from Google Ventures, InCube Ventures and VentureHealth will support the further development of the platform to deliver peptides, proteins, antibodies, RNAi therapies and vaccines in oral forms, according to Rani.

In preclinical trials, the platform showed "double-digit" bioavailability of these drugs when taken orally, a solid showing for drugs that normally break down when ingested. Because drugs such as proteins and peptides, including insulin, need to retain their structural integrity to be useful, oral versions have been difficult to arrange, as they tend to lose their structure in the gut before they reach the bloodstream.

"The oral delivery of large molecules is considered the Holy Grail of drug delivery," said Google Ventures partner Blake Byers in a release. "Mir Imran and InCube Labs have a proven record for solving some of the most challenging problems in medicine. At Google Ventures, we often say that we invest in entrepreneurs who want to change the world, and our investment in Rani is a perfect example of that mission at work."

Rani isn't the only company in the oral arena, and others have a head start. Novo Nordisk ($NVO), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), India's Biocon and Israel's Oramed all have oral insulin candidates in the wings at various stages. Oramed, for one, stands closest to having one on the market, currently in Phase II trials.

But having Google as a backer could help Rani gain some ground, helping the company reach milestones and compete with its Big Pharma rivals.

- here's the release
- and here's FierceBiotech's take