Investment in oral insulin firm could aid entry to lucrative China market

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese firm Guangxi Wuzhou is investing $5m into Oramed
Chinese firm Guangxi Wuzhou is investing $5m into Oramed

Related tags Diabetes mellitus

Oral insulin developer Oramed Pharmaceuticals is looking at China’s growing diabetes problem following a $5m investment from Guangxi Wuzhou Zhongheng.

Israel-based Oramed’s lead candidate is ORMD-0801, an orally administered form of insulin being investigated as an alternative to injectable insulin in patients with Type 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus. Guangxi Wuzhou’ injection of $5m (€4.2m) in the business is “not a strategic agreement,”​ but will be useful to tap China’s diabetes market worth $3bn, and growing annually by 15-20%, according to a spokesperson from Oramed.

“The market alone and as part of a worldwide insulin market cannot be ignored by anyone​,” was told. “China’s population is approximately 1.4 billion and around 10-12% of this population is diabetic.”

“Wuzhou is a $2.6bn company with good knowledge of the Chinese pharma market and has solid distribution and sales channels into this market.  While there is no strategic agreement between the parties, Wuzhou can and is certainly able to help with any Chinese entry.”

The money will be used to support upcoming Phase IIb studies on ORMD-0801, as well as aid preclinical development of an oral Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that stimulates insulin release in the body.

POD technology

Oramed’s candidates use the proprietary Protein Oral Delivery (POD) platform which contains a pH sensitive enteric coating that only degrades in the small intestine, protease inhibitors, and absorption enhancers which help the translocation of peptides and proteins across the intestinal wall.

Equity research firm Acceleron, which initialised coverage of Oramed following favorable top-line results from a Phase IIa trial of ORMD-0801 for Type 1 in November, said the platform is “a breakthrough in medical science” ​and could be “create a new paradigm”​ in delivering large molecule drugs.

“POD technology addresses a market of roughly $50 billion worth of drugs and vaccines that are currently delivered via injections,”​ the firm said in a note. “This includes diabetes, the first indication pursued by Oramed, a market where $20 billion worth insulin was sold globally in 2013.”

Oramed’ pipeline is focused on treatments for diabetes for now, but Oramed has said​ the technology can be used to administer proteins and peptides more widely. Novo Nordisk and Biocon are also developing oral forms of insulin.

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