Irish drug delivery firm Adaptiv goes Stateside

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Digestion, Stomach

A new drug delivery company, Merrion Pharmaceuticals, has been set
up to commercialise various technologies originally developed at
Ireland's Elan, which sold off many of its assets after growing too
quickly throughout the 1990s.

Merrion​, which was formerly known as Adaptiv Biopharma, has just set up a business development headquarters at Wilmington in North Carolina, US. It will be headed by Michael McKenna, who has held senior positions at Dow Chemical and Parke-Davis, and was most recently vice president, science and technology at venture capital company AM Pappas & Associates.

The company was founded by Growcorp, an Irish life sciences venture capital group, which funded the acquisition of Elan's drug delivery technologies and their incorporation into Adaptiv in March of this year. Adaptiv has acquired a wide range of oral delivery systems for biological drugs and pharmaceuticals that were under development at Elan's Biotechnology Research (EBR) Centre in Dublin.

The company's R&D operations will continue to be based in Dublin under the direction of managing director John Lynch.

He told​ that the company's technology platforms include a portfolio of penetration enhancers that improve the absorption of oral drugs through the gastrointestinal tract; gastro-retentive technology to provide extended release of drugs from the stomach; and two targeting molecules.

Gastro Intestinal Permeation Enhancement Technology (GIPET) is a platform that improves the delivery of poorly absorbed drugs to the bloodstream. It is based on the focused application of proprietary penetration enhancers, which improve the uptake of such drugs in the small intestine. The technology comprises three distinct types of penetration enhancers which are applicable to both solid and liquid-fill dosage forms.

GIPET formulations do not require chemical modification of the active drug, which removes a regulatory barrier to their use in improving existing products, and studies have shown that the penetration enhancing effects are rapidly reversible. The GIPET technologies are applicable to small molecules, macromolecules and biologics, and two of them have Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) status in the US.

The second platform is GIRES (Gastro Intestinal Retention System), targeted at drugs which exhibit poor or erratic absorption in the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. Such drugs are often poorly bioavailable, require frequent dosing or produce unwanted side effects due to widely fluctuating blood drug levels.

GIRES addresses all of these problems, according to the company. It involves the use of an inflatable pouch, which fits into a drug capsule for oral administration. Upon dissolution of the capsule, the pouch inflates in the stomach and is retained for 16-24 hours, all the time releasing medication to the stomach and upper intestine. Again, the delivery technology is applicable to a wide variety of drug types and there is no change in the composition of matter for the active ingredient.

The two targeting technologies address the oral delivery of vaccines and the uptake of drugs across the blood brain barrier. Through the use of a molecular biology approach, the Merrion has identified several targeting ligands that enable the selective delivery of drugs and/or vaccines to specific sites in the GI tract and on the endothelial cells of the microcirculation of the brain.

Merrion already has four products in Phase I clinical testing based on the GIPET and GIRES technologies, although the actives used in these technologies are not being divulged for competitive reasons, said Lynch.

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