SmartTab Wireless Pill for Targeted Drug Delivery: Interview with CEO Robert Niichel

Velóce Digital Health is working to make pills smarter. The Denver, Colorado company is developing the SmartTab, an ingestible capsule that can be wirelessly controlled via a smartphone to release its contents at precise locations within the gastrointestinal system.

SmartTab CEO Robert Niichel

“The idea is that [with] the
smart capsule, you will have precision medicine and delivered to a very
targeted area,” says Robert Niichel, Founder and CEO. This approach, he points
out, could reduce drug dosages, adverse effects, and improve patient outcomes.

SmartTab works using several key technological features. The capsule itself is powered by inductive charging. Once swallowed, the capsule is tracked electronically using a small adhesive patch worn on the skin near the target area. When the capsule approaches the desired spot for administration, the contents can be released automatically or by the user by pushing some buttons on the accompanying iPhone app.

Of all the potential drugs that SmartTab could deliver, the company hopes to start with medications for Crohn’s disease. “[Crohn’s] affects a specific section area within the GI tract,” Niichel says. “[By] treating just the affected area… you can reduce the amount of drug needed, as well as improve patient outcomes, because now you have essentially a laser-targeted delivery.”

Beyond Crohn’s disease, Niichel is quick to point out more potential applications. Longer courses of antibiotics could be delivered using a single capsule that stays in the system for multiple days, releasing a set dose of antibiotics daily. Capsules that stay in the system for longer periods of time could also contain heart attack or epilepsy medications, Niichel says, with medication release triggered during symptom onset. And finally, drugs that are currently delivered as injections could be contained in a capsule, which could dock against the small intestine and deliver the drug painlessly.

In terms of cost, Niichel notes
that the capsules are quite inexpensive: “You have many drugs out there that cost
five, ten, twenty thousand dollars a year,” he says. “We’re talking about the
smart capsule being less than a dollar per capsule.”

2019, SmartTab completed animal pre-clinical studies and demonstrated that the
pill could successfully release its contents at the targeted area upon
receiving the wireless signal. The next step, says Niichel, is to begin human
clinical studies in 2020 towards the goal of FDA approval.

“Our vision is that in 10-15 years you’ll see virtually all capsules and tablets in a pharmacy have some type of an electronic tracking system, delivery, or monitoring system… And we’re the leaders in that space.”

Link: SmartTab homepage…

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