First the Roomba, now the a robo-pill. The next generation of pill technology has arrived: one that can deliver specific amount of drugs to specific areas of the digestive tract. Philips, one of the world’s biggest hospital equipment makers, unveiled their “intelligent pill” prototype this week. The “iPill” capsule contains a microprocessor, battery, wireless radio, pump and a drug reservoir.

The iPill uses a sensor to measure acidity to determine its location in the gut. This allows it to release drugs where they are needed. The iPill then releases medicine from its drug reservoir through the microprocessor-controlled pump. It can also measure temperature and report it wirelessly to an external receiver.

According to Philips, the benefits of being able to deliver drugs directly to the location of the disease means doses can be lower, reducing side effects for treatments of digestive tract disorders such as Crohn’s disease, colitus and colon cancer (all of which are becoming increasingly common in the western world).

The prototype is ready for mass production and will be presented to the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) in Atlanta this month. It sounds like a revolutionary tool for drug development, the treatment for digestive tract disorders and for the medical community at large. Here’s hoping it will have a greater impact than the Roomba had on household maintenance.

Keri Damen

Keri leads the strategic design, development, marketing and expansion of cutting edge business programs in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation, marketing, HR, management and leadership at U of T’s School of Continuing Studies. See more…