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This GV-Backed Company Thinks Its “Robotic Pill” Could Replace Painful Drug Injections

February 8, 2018, 8:10 PM UTC

Sometimes, it can be a pain, literally, to take prescription medication—especially when that medication has to be administered via injection. But injections are the most effective (or at least the most preferred) form of drug delivery for certain kinds of treatments, including those for chronic conditions like diabetes, psoriasis, arthritis, and others.

But what if pills could eventually replace the needle altogether?

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That’s what Rani Therapeutics is setting out to do with its “robotic pill.” The company announced Thursday that it’s raised $53 million in a new funding round (putting its total at $142 million in money raised) to finance broader manufacturing of its tech as the firm prepares to move into human clinical trials. Investors include big pharma mainstays like Novartis, AstraZeneca, and Shire, in addition to Google parent Alphabet’s venture arm GV, among others.

Rani claims that its “robotic pill” can deliver a drug dose straight into the intestinal wall (without any pain) as it proceeds through the stomach and intestine; the pill can push drugs into this area through a sugar-based structure that resembles a needle and automatically dissolves after delivery.

If Rani’s platform proves successful in human trials, it could be a significant advance for patient comfort (and, in turn, help improve drug regimen compliance). Many of the best-selling treatments around, such as AbbVie’s Humira (the top selling medication in the world), currently involve injections.

A shifting drug delivery landscape is an essential element of the digital health revolution. Companies are trying to figure out how to make proven drugs even more effective—and easier to use—than the available options, including through implants, patches, and other technologies.