Research News

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

  • 23 November, 2022


A project to develop a atch 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.

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 University College Dublin, Fellow of UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, 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 (listed below).

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.

As the coordinator of the project, Professor Brayden received a Coordinator Support Grant from Irish industry development agency Enterprise Ireland, supported by the Horizon Europe National Support Network team.

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).

* 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.


About Prof David Brayden

Prof David Brayden is a Full Professor of Advanced Drug Delivery at University College Dublin, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, and a Senior Fellow of the UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research. He has established a critical mass of drug delivery expertise in Ireland and led the SFI Irish Drug Delivery network from 2008-2013 before becoming a co-lead Principal Investigator in the SFI CURAM Centre for Medical Devices in 2013. His major research interests are in oral, buccal, and intra-articular drug delivery using permeation enhancers, nanotechnology, and drug-device combinations.

His research encompasses questions of how drugs transport across epithelial surfaces of the body ranging from regions of the intestine to the buccal surface.  From this, formulations and drug-device combinations can be synthesised, characterised, and tested in in vitro and in vivo bioassays.  He has established programmes on intestinal permeation enhancers, nanoparticle formulations for oral and intra-articular administration, and use of high content analysis in respect of toxicology of polymers and excipients used in drug delivery.  His research is focused on clinical applications in Diabetes and Osteoarthritis.



CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, is developing the next generation of medical devices and training a highly-skilled workforce. Set up in 2015, CÚRAM is now a world-leading Irish Medical Device R&D Centre based out of NUI Galway. While led by the National University of Ireland Galway, CÚRAM’s partner institutes include University College Dublin, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Dublin City University, Technological University of the Shannon, National Institute Bioprocessing Research and Training and Technological University Dublin. The Centre focuses on developing biomedical implants, therapeutic and diagnostic devices that address the needs of patients living with chronic illness. They also partner with local small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) and multinational medical device and pharmaceutical companies to increase employment in Ireland. The Centre has seen numerous scientific breakthroughs, as researchers focus on improving the quality of life for patients living with long-term chronic conditions such as diabetes, back pain, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Our researchers focus on engineering approaches for repair and remodelling, improved drug delivery solutions and superior medical implant designs to treat chronic diseases. CÚRAM was created because of the need for clinicians, industry, and researchers to collaborate in developing medical devices that will create jobs and establish a global hub for MedTech.