However, while both Type 1 & 2 diabetes are life-altering, they are treatable, and modern technological advances are helping patients suffering with diabetes treat themselves more effectively.
For those suffering with diabetes, the most important intervention will come from blood glucose control, stopping the patient becoming hypo or hyper glycemic. To regulate this effectively, people living with diabetes must closely monitor their blood glucose levels.
The monitoring process has, up until recently, revolved around a blood sample test. This involves pricking the finger with a Lancet device (a small, sharp needle), before putting a drop of blood onto a test strip and inserting that strip into a meter which displays blood sugar levels. Patients must repeat this process multiple times per day, causing significant disruption and discomfort.
However, in the last few years the diabetes market has seen a handful of disruptive companies emerge and significantly improve the lives of people living with the disease. Here are the top five making the most noise:
Dexcom's sleek G5 design with examples of connectivity.
Dexcom are one of the big names in Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM). Their technology, the G5, works with a small sensor placed on the skin which monitors blood sugar levels and transmits them to a mobile device like a smart phone. This technology still requires a finger prick calibration every 12 hours, but delivers continuous data to your phone without scanning, or having to finger prick in between. Dexcom have even partnered with the Apple Watch so users can discreetly view their glucose reading, trend arrow and trend graph at a glance of their wrist. The app is also compatible with Android Wear Watches.
Abbot's FDA/CE approved Freestyle Libre system and what's in the box.
Next up, a competitor of Dexcom’s is Abbot’s Freestyle Libre system. Marketed as a potentially cheaper alternative to the Dexcom product, Freestyle Libre incorporates flash monitoring, which eliminates the need to finger prick. Instead, the patient wears a disposable patch which can be checked by scanning the device over the patch at regular intervals.
Finger prick testing is still required if the app tells you to, or your symptoms don’t match readings, but both Dexcom and Freestyle Libre have dramatically reduced the frequency of finger pricks.
What Bigfoot Biomedical's product could look like.
Bigfoot Biomedical are another name I’ve come across recently, who have a great backstory on their site.
According to the ‘legend’ found on their website, a few years ago the five-year-old son of a wall street banker, Bryan Mazlish, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Rather than just accept the treatment options available on the market, Bryan decided to hack into an off the-shelf insulin pump and an early iteration of the Dexcom system, before merging the two together with a mobile app which effectively creates an automated insulin delivery system. You can read the full story here
The fully commercialised system is now nearing the mainstream market, with the backing of big names including former JDRF CEO Jeffrey Brewer and former Medtronic Chief Engineer Lane Desborough. Watch this space for more developments.
Cellnovo's innovative "all french" Insulin pump.
Cellnovo offer an insulin pump already on the market, which works as a mobile diabetes management system. This automated pump handles the actual distribution of insulin, as opposed to just the monitoring of glucose levels.
The Cellnovo solution, includes an insulin pump, cellular-enabled wireless touchscreen handset and an integrated blood glucose meter. Their subtle insulin pump, attached to the patients’ skin, is an effective alternative to the painful insulin injections Type 1 diabetes patients must otherwise endure.
Senseonic's tiny implant.
Getting ever more futuristic, Senseonics have come up with an implantable monitoring system, which stays under the skin.
Whereas the Dexcom and Freestyle Libre systems both have disposable elements, Senseonics’s Eversense continually measures glucose levels for the operating life of the sensor (approximately 90 days).
After the sensor has been inserted, the system includes a smart transmitter which fits over the top and gives on-body vibrating alerts when glucose levels are low or high.
All these solutions have the potential to help improve patients’ quality of lives dramatically, but as of yet, we haven’t seen one comprehensive solution for glucose monitoring and management take control of the market. As a result, we’re seeing a swathe of partnerships across the industry.
Two of the businesses we’ve already mentioned, Bigfoot and Freestyle Libre announced their formal partnership early in 2017 and Dexcom have also looked to create partnerships with various different pump manufacturers. One of the most notable of these is Tandem, a manufacturer of small pumps which Dexcom hope will enable them to create a comprehensive full diabetes management system.
Those are just a selection of companies I come across regularly from working within the diabetes space, but the future looks even brighter, with some frankly astounding technologies currently in development.
Pills with hidden insulin-injecting needles are one idea touted by Diabetes Forecast and ‘smart’ insulin is currently in Phase 1 trials with pharma giant, Merck, which automatically goes into action when glucose is too high and then deactivates when glucose is back down to a stable level.
The diabetes market is a great place to be – every month we’re seeing new phases of testing and FDA/CE approvals which could shake up the market dramatically. The innovation taking place has potentially life-changing implications for patients and businesses alike.
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