€3.8M EU funding to develop wearable patch for Type 2 Diabetes


A project to develop a patch worn on the cheek that delivers peptide treatments for Type 2 diabetes has been awarded just under €3.8 million by the EU’s Horizon Europe RESILIENCE programme. * Peptides are short chains of building blocks within the body. Longer chains are called proteins. The peptides described are large delicate potent molecules typically administered by injections, e.g. insulin.

The ‘BUCCAL-PEP’ project will combine skills to develop a multifunctional biomaterial patch which allows, for the first time ever, delivery of peptide therapies across the cheek (buccal). Existing patches have already been designed for small molecules but these cannot effectively deliver peptide treatments by this route of administration. Type 2 diabetes patients need the peptide insulin to treat the disease.


Type 2 diabetes is the chronic disease of focus for the research because patients tend to prefer non-injected drug administration routes over injections, which improves patient compliance. BUCCAL-PEP has the potential to provide an alternative administration route for peptides other than by injections and oral routes, which could benefit the treatment of other conditions such as pain relief and certain cancers.

Prof. David Brayden, Professor of Advanced Drug Delivery at UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, Fellow of UCD Conway Institute, and Funded Investigator at CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, is the coordinator on the grant. He will lead a consortium of seven partners across Ireland, Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the UK, including a large pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk (Denmark), several SMEs, and academic partners.

Prof Brayden said: “I am delighted to be the coordinator on this exciting new grant which combines academic and industry partners across the EU. Patients need alternative routes for large molecule delivery over injections as this has an impact over their willingness to adhere to therapy. Buccal administration has particular challenges and our project will attempt to address these using new patch designs.”

UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact, Professor Orla Feely said: “We congratulate Prof. David Brayden on bringing together this significant consortium project and securing equally significant EU funding. It is a key goal of Horizon Europe programmes to connect academics, industry and varied stakeholders to produce research, new technologies and outcomes that empower people in ways that truly matter. In this case, the project will support the translation of research into clinical applications that have significant potential to really address the needs of patients living with chronic conditions."

The patch design uses permeation enhancer, (a substance that boosts penetration), along with multiple biomaterials and a peptide cargo, enabling diffusion of the peptide across the mucosal surface of the cheek for effective delivery of the treatment.

Oral delivery of macromolecules including peptides – such as insulin – is one of the great challenges in pharmaceutical research: only five peptide-analogues are administered by tablets or capsules. Low bioavailability, dosage control, and restrictions in use (e.g. undesirable food interactions) remain key challenges. Buccal delivery has the added benefit of avoiding food effects on the absorption of peptides, a common inconvenient problem found with oral peptide administration.

BUCCAL-PEP will enable novel peptide-based treatments to emerge, which otherwise might not have reached the market due to incompatibility with the currently available administration routes. This award recognises the importance of tackling this economic and personal health burden.

Consortium partners include: UCD School of Veterinary Medicine and UCD Conway Institute (Coordinator); Adhex Pharma (Dijon, France); Cambridge Innovation Technologies Consulting Limited (Cambridge UK); Catalyze Innovation Consulting (Amsterdam, The Netherlands); Charite, Berlin Institute of Health (Berlin, Germany); Technical University of Denmark (Copenhagen, Denmark); Novo Nordisk Pharma (Malov, Denmark).