Science & Technology

Enhanced Ultrasound Drug Delivery – Boosts Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders

Co-founded by MIT graduate Carl Schoellhammer and two MIT professors, SuonoBio leverages more than 30 years of research in MIT’s lab to deliver drugs to the gastrointestinal tract using ultrasound. To do.Credits: iStockphoto, edited by MIT News

Founded by two MIT professors and alumni, SuonoBio uses proven technology to boost the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.

It can be difficult to deliver the drug to the diseased area along the gastrointestinal tract that straddles the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and anus. Invasive treatment can take several hours as the patient waits for the right amount of drug to be absorbed in the right place. The same problem is refraining from new therapies such as genetically modified therapy.

Suono Bio, a spin-out of MIT, is now taking a new approach to more effectively delivering drugs containing nucleic acids, such as DNA and RNA, to the gastrointestinal tract using ultrasound. The company believes that its technology can be used to bring a variety of therapeutic molecules that have proven to be the most difficult to treat with drugs into the body’s territory.

“Ultrasound is a well-known technology that has been used in clinics for decades,” said Carl Schoellhammer PhD’15, co-founder and CTO of Suono. “But now we are doing something really unique and novel with it, making it easier to deliver what we couldn’t deliver before.”

Suono’s technology is the culmination of more than 30 years of discoveries made by researchers at MIT Labs, including Schoellhammer, MIT professor David H. Koch Institute professor Suono co-founder Robert Langer, and MIT assistant professor Giovanni Traverso. .. .. The platform takes advantage of the phenomenon that ultrasonic waves generate small jets in a liquid that are used to push drugs into cells.

The company’s first treatment program targets ulcerative colitis. Last week, Suono announced a funding round to bring its program and other programs in its pipeline into clinical trials.

Beyond its first program, the founders state that the platform can be used to deliver a variety of molecules to any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from nucleic acids to peptides to larger proteins. Also, the first iteration of Suono’s distribution platform will leverage a handheld system, but the founders believe that this technology could one day be included in battery-powered ingestible tablets.

“Or [first drug candidate] This is a proof of concept that can solve a very pressing clinical problem and bring many benefits to many patients, “says Schoellhammer. “However, the study applied ultrasound to the mucosal surface, reducing the risk of the entire platform because the entire gastrointestinal tract is one large mucosal surface. Therefore, even with other form factors, then All products are built on each other. “

Promising discoveries

Schoellhammer received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from 2010 to 2015. During that time, we received joint advice from Daniel Blankschtein, a professor of chemical engineering at Herman P. Meissner, and Langer, who co-founded more than 40 companies.

Langer and Blankschtein first discovered in 1995 that ultrasound could be used to help the drug pass through the skin. The drug breaks down. Almost 20 years later, collaborators at Schoellhammer and MIT took their discovery one step further by applying two different ultrasonic beams to the skin at the same time to further enhance cell penetration.

At the time, Traverso was a Gastroenterology Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, completing the research portion of his training in Langer’s lab. Schoellhammer, Traverso, and other collaborators have decided to see if ultrasound can enhance drug delivery to the gastrointestinal tract. “It seems to work very well on the skin, so why not try another part of your body,” recalls Schoellhammer.

The drug usually needs to be encapsulated with a protective coating so that it is delivered into the body without breaking down. In the researchers’ first experiments, they combined raw biopharmaceuticals with ultrasound. Surprisingly, the drug was effectively absorbed into the digestive tract. This method was effective in delivering proteins, DNA, RNA, and forms of RNA used therapeutically such as mRNA and siRNA.

“In short, we’ve found that everything works,” says Schoellhammer. “We were able to deliver a wide range of drugs without formulations. The gastrointestinal tract is designed to absorb, but generally absorbs small molecules. Biologics, proteins, Everything larger than that, such as gene therapy, is broken down because at the same time the gastrointestinal tract is in a very difficult environment to live in. It has a low pH and is rich in proteases and nucleases to chew all these molecules. Included. Therefore, delivering these types of compounds to the gastrointestinal tract is a kind of chalice. “

Convinced that breakthroughs could one day improve patient treatment options, Schoellhammer collaborated with the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation to participate in the MIT $ 100,000 Entrepreneurship Contest and fund from The Engine Investment Fund. Received and accepted many people. Among the other educational experiences he says, it was essential to get started with Suono.

“Mentors like Bob, mentors like Geo can take classes at MIT’s business school and work with MIT’s Technology Licensing Office to find out what they want in technology protection and external engagement. You can learn from their point of view. The group, support from the Deshpande Center where we received an early grant. I also received the 2015 Remelson MIT Program Student Award. ” Schoellhammer talks about what helped his entrepreneurial journey. “Without all these factors, Suono wouldn’t exist, and there wouldn’t be any technology to reach patients someday.”

Subsequent studies have confirmed that ultrasound delivery can be used to deliver the drug anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract. They also showed that the drug was absorbed much more efficiently and had a better effect than treatment using other delivery methods.

“It’s really exciting because the range of molecules that can be delivered is very rare for drug delivery technology,” Traverso says. “These observations are further enhanced by the recovery seen when ultrasound was applied to the gastrointestinal disease model.”

How to get to the patient

Suono plans to begin clinical trials within the next 12-18 months. By approving one drug, the founders not only validate the effectiveness of the approach, but also the regulatory hurdles for future drugs, even if later treatments differ significantly from those currently being administered. I believe it simplifies.

“Ultrasound can be packaged in a variety of form factors, so it can be included in enema systems, endoscopes, or tablets,” says Traverso. “Using ultrasound in all these ways opens up many new opportunities. The current task is to identify the best opportunities, given that so many things can be done.”

In addition to inflammatory bowel disease, Suono is looking for treatments for many other disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Localized delivery platforms, for example, can make the treatment of certain cancers more accurate and effective.

“Like any other company, you have to think very carefully about displaying logical leads,” says Schoellhammer. “So we’re starting by targeting ulcerative colitis, but that’s not the end of it. It builds value across the platform and, ultimately, biologics. It will be a fully ingestible system for oral delivery of everything, including oral delivery of, and oral delivery of nucleic acids. Our focus on this path is its long-term vision. “

Enhanced Ultrasound Drug Delivery – Boosts Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders Enhanced Ultrasound Drug Delivery – Boosts Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders

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