Painless delivery of injectable drugs


Researchers at ETH Zurich have found a new way to administer medication. The OctoPatch suction cup offers a pain-free alternative to needles for many substances in the future. The next step: the path from university to start-up.

Let's be honest: nobody likes injections. This aversion can be particularly pronounced in the case of trypanophobia – a phobia of needles. But each day, millions of patients, such as people with type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis or prostate cancer, have to administer their medicines via painful injections and without a viable alternative.

ETH Zurich researchers with ground-breaking method

A Swiss research team is working on a promising solution to eliminate the need to administer medication by injection in the future. According to ETH Zurich, the mucosal lining of the cheek isn’t particularly suitable for delivering medication to the bloodstream. Its dense tissue has so far presented a major obstacle, especially for large molecules like peptides. But researchers Nevena Paunović and David Klein Cerrejon are about to change this by developing a suction cup that can be attached to the inside of the cheek, where it transports the substances into the bloodstream via the mucous membrane. Their creation is called OctoPatch® - named after its animal inspiration, the octopus.

Self-applied suction cup to eliminate painful injections

The current prototype of the OctoPatch® is around one centimetre wide and 0.6 centimetres high. Once the suction cup is attached to the cheek, it adheres by itself thanks to the vacuum and can be easily removed by hand later. The drug inside the suction cup is supplemented with an endogenous agent that fluidises the cell membranes, allowing the drug to penetrate to the deeper layers of tissue. So far, the team has tested the suction cup on dogs and in initial human trials without any drugs.

It is truly unique in drug delivery, which is why the OctoPatch has already been patented in 2021.

Nevena Paunović, Co-Founder

From research to reality

The researchers will have to carry out further tests with this new drug delivery system in preparation for conducting a clinical trial on healthy volunteers. There are also several regulatory hurdles to clear before the suction cup hits the market. In order to bring the invention to market maturity, the researchers founded the spin-off OBaris. This step follows various awards and support measures, such as inclusion in the ETH Pioneer Fellowship and VentureKick.

Website of OBaris