Insulin injections without needles

The NanoPump is a tiny silicon array on the skin in which dozens or hundreds of tiny, hollow pyramids, are set, barely detectable by the naked eye.Diabetes patients have long been required to administer their daily injections with an inch-long …

The NanoPump is a tiny silicon array on the skin in which dozens or hundreds of tiny, hollow pyramids, are set, barely detectable by the naked eye.Diabetes patients have long been required to administer their daily injections with an inch-long needle. But soon, thanks to NanoPass Technologies, an Israeli company based on a technology developed at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, millions of Americans will be able to say goodbye to those uncomfortable, painful injections.

The NanoPump device, developed by Technion lecturer Dr. Shuki Yeshurun, will enable diabetics to painlessly and easily inject themselves with insulin and will also assist the patients to injections of additional medications and various immunizations.

“Diabetics are known to be pain tolerant but for needle-phobes and kids, these needles are a nightmare.” said Yeshurun, NanoPass’s founder and president.

The NanoPump is a tiny silicon array on the skin in which dozens or hundreds of tiny, hollow pyramids, are set, barely detectable by the naked eye. This unique system is intended to deliver large molecules, such as insulin, which until now could not be introduced into the body without painful and invasive injections. The system is operated by an insulin pump. The company’s future systems will integrate a mechanism for internal propulsion of the drug so that patients can inject the material themselves without the need of a pump.

Convenience is not the only advantage of this new development. According to Yeshurun: “Injecting the material into the upper layer of skin may yield better results than deeper penetration. In the case of immunizations, for example, the new method can save large sums of money because shallow injection may enables the use of smaller quantities of a vaccine – less than required for conventional injections immunization.”

Dr. Yotam Levin, the CEO of NanoPass says that the NanoPump is a unique device for insulin injections. A handful of small-scale micro-needle developers exist, but Levin says NanoPass’s technology is more cost-effective. In addition, NanoPass micro-needles do not break in the body, resist clogging with tissue and overcome skin elasticity.

“There are micro-needles that have been developed at the renowned centers such as the University of California in Berkeley and at Georgia Tech, as well as some commercial companies. They have good techniques, but are quite different from our technology. We are using pyramids, which is a feature that is unique to us. It’s a very robust structure, and its sharp tip allows it to penetrate most effectively,” he told ISRAEL21c.

“Large molecules simply cannot pass through the skin,” said Levin. “Existing ways for delivering proteins such as insulin, antibodies, and vaccines are limited and usually painful. These molecules cannot be delivered by a conventional patch and they degrade too fast in the stomach or liver to be put in a tablet.”

NanoPass will also combine micro-needles with jet injection. It has been found that administering vaccine to the skin’s shallow layer, a central area for immune-potent cells, may provide a better response compared to other delivery depths.

“Some sources found they needed 1/1000 of the vaccine for an equivalent response. These cost savings are phenomenal,” Levin said.

In the U.S., treating diabetes costs about $100 billion a year, with the main treatment insulin injections. But as the disease progresses, many patients need continually increasing amounts of the hormone, and the injections become less effective. The discovery of a more effective treatment could significantly improve the quality of life of patients.

Approximately 17 million people in the United States, or 6.2% of the population, have diabetes. Some 5 percent of the world suffers from diabetes, making it a major public health concern. Complications from diabetes include heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, and limb amputation.

Sales of the NanoPump are projected to begin in 2005 following clinical trials and identifying co-developers. Levin said the company is working on a number of active agreements with leading pharmaceutical and medical device companies around the world.

“We’ve approached a number very large commercial entities, some in the U.S. and we’ve received great interest to work on co-development. We are looking for potential collaborators like medical device companies in America,” he said.

NanoPass, the winner of the “Best of the Best Award for Innovation” at the 2002 Capital IT Competition in Paris, was founded in 2000 and is based in Haifa. Since its inception, NanoPass has demonstrated successful delivery feasibility with insulin in animals; filed nine twelve pending patents, of which two are officially approved, and completed its production process for silicon micro-pyramids.