Novo, MIT's Langer Lab announce research alliance aimed at creating novel drug delivery devices

Robert Langer

Developing a noninjectable biologic drug is one of drug delivery's most elusive and sought-after goals.

To that end, Novo Nordisk ($NVO) and MIT's Langer Lab announced a three-year collaboration focused on developing next-generation drug delivery devices for the administration of peptides using noninjectable methods. There is an option to extend the deal for an additional three years.

Clearly, the company that introduced the world's first insulin pen in 1985 is aiming to diversify the range of administration techniques it offers. Novo currently sells injectable coagulation factors, diabetes meds and Saxenda for weight management. It offers the oral tablet Prandin for diabetes, as well as two tablets for the management of postmenopausal conditions.

"Drug delivery devices hold great potential and I am looking forward to this exciting research collaboration with one of the world's leading drug delivery laboratories," said Peter Kurtzhals, the head of global research at Novo Nordisk, in a statement.

Novo lists several challenges that must be overcome, including premature degradation in the body, overcoming poor peptide transport across epithelial cells that line organs, poor or varied absorption due to phenomena like the "food effect," and concerns related to manufacturing and cost-effectiveness. Biological barriers to peptide and protein-based drug delivery include the blood-brain barrier, the intestine, the lungs and the skin.

Still, Novo aims to overcome those challenges with the help of Dr. Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer at Harvard Medical School, who will lead the joint Langer-Novo research team. It will include a number of new researchers at Langer Lab who will be funded by Novo.

Traverso is also affiliated with MIT. At the Langer Lab he has developed many new technologies for drug delivery and physiological sensing of the gastrointestinal tract, according to his personal website.

For example, he helped create a polymer gel that should help enable the development of long-acting devices that are housed in the stomach for release of drugs over a period of days or even months.

Traverso collaborated on the project with world-renowned drug delivery researcher and Langer Lab head Robert Langer, who said in a statement, "We are very excited to be doing research sponsored by Novo Nordisk to address one of the current greatest challenges in drug delivery."

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