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Norwegian nasal drug delivery receives award


Scientist and company founder Per Gisle Djupesland’s invention could be used to treat symptoms and transmission of COVID-19.

Targeted drug delivery is critical when treating chronic inflammatory nasal and sinus diseases. Medicine could be deposited in the wrong areas, swallowed or passed straight through the nasal passages into the lungs, and traditional spray pumps cannot always reach targets that lie deep in the nose and sinuses.

The European Inventor Award 2021

To solve this problem and improve nasal drug delivery, Per Gisle Djupesland used his experience as an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, combined with his PhD in nasal aerodynamics. He began exploring whether a patient’s own exhaled breath could improve the delivery and noted that when exhaling against resistance, the soft palate closes. He was able to develop an exhalation delivery system (EDS) that uses this natural mechanism by simultaneously redirecting the exhaled breath through the nasal passages. This achievement led to Djupesland winning the European Inventor Award 2021 (category industry, sector medical device), and also founding a company, Optinose, together with his wife.

His invention includes a movable mouthpiece and a shaped sealing nosepiece. Air enters through one nostril and exits through the other, taking away the risk of lung inhalation and carrying the drug deeply through the nasal passages. Optinose currently employs over 200 people and the device is used to treat migraine and cluster headache patients. The device is also being tested in clinical trials for chronic sinusitis and explored in drug delivery to the brain in order to help neurological conditions. Djupesland is currently Chief Scientific Officer at the company and works part-time as an ENT consultant. In 2010, the NASDAQ-listed company reincorporated its business in the US and moved its headquarters from Oslo to Yardley, Penn., 32 miles from Philadelphia.

A new product candidate

In June 2020, the company announced the initiation of development of a new product candidate, OPN-019, which combines their intranasal EDS with an antiseptic. In vitro testing of the candidate formulation has demonstrated ≥4 log kill for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other pathogens. A pilot single-dose human study in patients with COVID-19 to evaluate reduction in viral load is also planned.

”We have demonstrated that an EDS can spread medicine thoroughly in the deep areas of the nasal cavity where the virus appears to be multiplying and shedding.”

”Evidence suggests that the virus attaches to certain types of cells in the deep part of the nose, and can multiply for an extended period, often days, before symptoms appear – all the while risking spread to others,” states Ramy Mahmoud, President and COO, Optinose. ”We have demonstrated that an EDS can spread medicine thoroughly in the deep areas of the nasal cavity where the virus appears to be multiplying and shedding.”

The company’s intent is for OPN-019 to offer people a way to reduce their own risk of disease progression and also help members of their household – or other at-risk people – to avoid getting sick at all.

Facts: Nasal drug delivery

In recent years, and especially during the pandemic, interest in intranasal drug delivery in pharmaceutical R&D has increased. Advantages compared to standard systemic delivery system includes being non-invasive, having a fast onset of action and often reduced side effects due to a more targeted delivery. Challenges include formulation limitations and toxicological aspects also need to be optimized.

Photo of Per Gisle Djupesland: the European Inventor Award