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Google Ventures bets on oral biologics from startup Rani Therapeutics

Posted Aug 29, 2013

By Ryan McBride

In a gamble on making oral versions of typically injected therapies, Google Ventures has joined forces with InCube Ventures and VentureHealth to fund a Series B round for Rani Therapeutics. And with its lofty oral-delivery goals, San Jose, CA-based Rani is tackling the kind of big idea in biotech that Google's ($GOOG) venture fund likes to bankroll.
Rani issued a press release Wednesday afternoon about the venture deal without dollar details, but a Wall Street Journal blog reported that the amount raised was in excess of $10 million.

Drug-delivery experts have long dreamed of the multibillion-dollar opportunity of making lucrative injected products such as insulin and anti-TNF therapies into easy-to-take pills. Yet there are myriad obstacles, including the destructive powers of the digestive tract, which can prevent enough of the biologics from reaching the blood stream if swallowed. Spearheaded by medical tech entrepreneur Mir Imran at InCube Labs, Rani has tested oral biologics in preclinical experiments with bioavailability of more than 50%, according to InCube's website.

"The oral delivery of large molecules is considered the Holy Grail of drug delivery," Google Ventures Partner Blake Byers said in a statement. "Mir Imran and InCube Labs have a proven track record for solving some of the most challenging problems in medicine. At Google Ventures, we often say that we invest in entrepreneurs who want to change the world, and our investment in Rani is a perfect example of that mission at work."

Rani and its investors face the customary hurdle of repeating its preclinical success in human tests, making the company a risky gamble for most venture investors at this early stage. Yet Imran, who has had a hand in founding more than 20 companies, has been experimenting with funding models to fuel his latest upstarts. Imran and his partners from Silicon Valley VC firm InCube recently founded the "crowdfunding" vehicle VentureHealth, which features a portal for wealthy investors to explore investment opportunities in healthcare upstarts.

Rani might also encounter mammoth competitors with deep pockets. Take Novo Nordisk ($NVO), the world's top producer of insulin, which has already had some early success with an oral version of the diabetes therapy in humans.  

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