An Irish-led international research project has been awarded nearly €3.8m in EU funding for its work to develop a novel way of treating diabetes.

The Buccal-Pep project is developing a multifunctional biomaterial patch that allows for the delivery of peptide therapies through the cheek to treat type 2 diabetes.

Patches have already been designed for small molecules, but researchers said that these cannot effectively deliver peptide treatments through the cheek.

Type 2 diabetes patients need the peptide insulin to treat the condition, and a non-injection route is likely to be preferable to most patients – which would enhance patient compliance.

“Patients need alternative routes for large molecule delivery over injections as this has an impact over their willingness to adhere to therapy,” said Prof David Brayden of University College Dublin (UCD), who is the coordinator on the EU grant.

“Buccal [cheek] administration has particular challenges, and our project will attempt to address these using new patch designs.”

A professor of advanced drug delivery at UCD and a fellow of the UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, Brayden will lead a consortium of seven partners across Ireland, Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK

This consortium includes Danish pharma giant Novo Nordisk as well as several SMEs and academic partners such as AdhexPharma, Cambridge Innovation Technologies Consulting, Catalyze Innovation Consulting, the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité and the Technical University of Denmark.

The team’s patch design uses permeation enhancer – a substance that boosts penetration – along with multiple biomaterials and a peptide cargo, enabling diffusion of the peptide across the mucosal surface of the cheek for the effective delivery of the treatment.

Oral delivery of peptides such as insulin has been a significant challenge in pharmaceutical research, with only five peptide-analogues administrable by tablets or capsules.

UCD vice-president for research Prof Orla Feely congratulated Brayden “on bringing together this significant consortium project and securing equally significant EU funding”, which comes from the Horizon Europe programme.

“It is a key goal of Horizon Europe programmes to connect academics, industry and varied stakeholders to produce research, new technologies and outcomes that empower people in ways that truly matter,” she said.

“In this case, the project will support the translation of research into clinical applications that have significant potential to really address the needs of patients living with chronic conditions.”

Vish Gain

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