Harvard-Launched Startup i2O Raises $4 Million To Develop Biological Oral Drugs

By Amit Chowdhry ● April 12, 2020
  • i2O Therapeutics, a Harvard-launched biotech company developing a platform for oral delivery of injectable biological drugs, announced it raised $4 million

i2O Therapeutics — an innovative biotech company developing a platform for oral delivery of traditionally injectable biological drugs — announced it raised $4 million in seed funding led by Sanofi Ventures and JDRF T1D Fund.

Launched by a team of researchers at Harvard University, i2O Therapeutics is focused on the development of effective oral formulations of therapies that are conventionally limited to injections (e.g. biologics, large molecules, and peptide-based pharmaceuticals like insulin). The technology has been exclusively licensed to i2O by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development.

The company’s platform enables drugs that traditionally would not survive the hostile environment of the digestive system to pass through safely by leveraging a unique coating that dissolves in the small intestine thus releasing the active drug. Initially, I2O’s focus is on developing a novel oral formulation for GLP-1 analogs.

This technology was originally developed in the Harvard lab of Samir Mitragotri, PhD — who is Hiller Professor of Bioengineering and Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a Core Faculty member at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

There are 3 main obstacles that typically prevent the administration of protein drugs by mouth, according to the Harvard Gazette: 1.) Digestive enzymes in the gut can destabilize the molecules 2.) a layer of thin mucus in the gut presents a physical barrier 3.) And the cells lining the wall of the gut have very tight junctions that can prevent the transport of proteins. Mitragotri Lab’s innovations can  overcome all three.

Both Christopher Gagliardi (Director of Investments at Sanofi Ventures) and Katie Ellias (Managing Director of the JDRF T1D Fund) will join the i2O Board of Directors.

Key Quotes:

“Our technology has the potential to enable the oral delivery of high-value drugs in a safer, more effective and patient-friendly way and also by easing the treatment burden for dozens of therapeutics that were previously restricted to intravenous or subcutaneous delivery.”

-Christopher Gagliardi, Co-founder of i2O Therapeutics.

“The support and partnership of Sanofi Ventures and JDRF T1D Fund marks a major milestone for i2O, and potentially millions of people around the world. This round of financing will enable us to rapidly expand our team and ramp up research and development at i2O as we seek to create the next generation of oral peptide and protein-based therapies.”

-Ravi Srinivasan, PhD, Co-founder of i2O Therapeutics.

“i2O Therapeutics is developing an extremely promising new platform for oral biologics with the potential to significantly ease treatment burden for countless patients who rely on drugs that can only be administered via injection.”

-Christopher Gagliardi, PhD, Director of Investments at Sanofi Ventures.

“We are excited to partner with i2O Therapeutics, whose platform has the potential to revolutionize the way people with diabetes manage their disease. The possibility of an oral insulin product, among other exciting applications of the i2O platform, represents a significant commercial opportunity and more importantly, has the potential to improve glycemic management and decrease hypoglycemia risk over today’s injectable insulins.”

-Katie Ellias, Managing Director of the JDRF T1D Fund

“Our technology has the potential to enable the oral delivery of high-value drugs in a safer, more effective and patient-friendly way and also by easing the treatment burden for dozens of therapeutics that were previously restricted to intravenous or subcutaneous delivery.”

“It’s extremely satisfying to see the technology make this jump from an academic discovery to a company that is moving it forward towards clinical application. That’s what really drives us as bioengineers, to see our technologies eventually reach and help patients.”

-Samir Mitragotri, Hiller Professor of Bioengineering and Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a Core Faculty member at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering