Licensing deal could pave way for new treatments for metabolic diseases

15 Dec 2022

Jeremy Skillington, Poolbeg Pharma. Image: Jason Clarke

In a proof-of-concept clinical trial, Poolbeg Pharma will look into the potential of microencapsulation and nanoencapsulation oral delivery technologies.

Poolbeg Pharma has acquired a licence from a sister company of Cork start-up AnaBio Technologies for an innovative treatment method for metabolic diseases.

The licence from InsuCaps will allow Poolbeg to use patented oral delivery microencapsulation and nanoencapsulation technologies for metabolic syndrome-related diseases.

Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, which puts people at greater risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and other conditions that affect blood vessels.

The licence will enable Poolbeg Pharma, which is a spin-out of Irish pharma services company Open Orphan, to begin a proof-of-concept technology clinical trial in the first half of 2023.

The trial will determine whether InsuCaps’ tech can be used to safely deliver a glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor (GLP-1) agonist orally in humans.

GLP-1 agonists are already used to treat diabetes and obesity and represent a fast-growing market. Currently, all but one GLP-1 products are injectables, which can be more onerous for patients than oral delivery.

If the trials are successful, Poolbeg intends to license the technology to pharma and biotech for use in obesity and diabetes, as well as other metabolic syndrome-related diseases.

Poolbeg already has a licence to use AnaBio’s microencapsulation and nanoencapsulation technologies, which underpin its oral vaccine platform.

Jeremy Skillington, CEO of Poolbeg Pharma, said that the company “saw the potential for microencapsulation and nanoencapsulation oral delivery technologies in vaccines”.

This has been “further validated” by a recent grant from the Irish Government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund. A consortium led by Poolbeg Pharma was awarded €2.3m to develop an orally self-administered vaccine technology.

“Drawing on our growing understanding of this technology from our oral vaccine platform, we believe that there is significant opportunity in other adjacent areas, such as metabolic diseases,” Skillington added.

“Diabetes and obesity are extremely fast-growing markets and the ability to administer drugs orally, rather than through injection, will improve access and quality of life for millions of patients.”

Dr Sinéad Bleiel, founder and chief scientific officer of InsuCaps, said that GLP-1 and similar metabolic peptides have “life-changing effects for diabetics and are becoming the obesity management drug of choice for the years ahead”.

She added that the business’s oral delivery technologies can “potentially deliver significant quality of life benefits to patients suffering from these long-term metabolic syndrome conditions”.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic