On September 3, 2013, the Helmsley Charitable Trust (HCT) announced a $4 million dollar grant to Dexcom in order accelerate the development of their new Gen6 Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). The Community Managers of Glu, Bill Woods and Anna Floreen, took time to talk with Program Director Eliot Brenner and Trustee David Panzirer to learn more about this important decision to invest in furthering CGM technology.
The Helmsley Charitable Trust is recognized as the largest private funder of type 1 diabetes research worldwide. They have invested time, effort, and finances to help improve the lives of those living with type 1 diabetes. They are also the founding sponsor of T1D Exchange and Glu.
Glu Team: Can you explain what advances in glucose sensing technology you hope will be accomplished through this grant? How would those improvements impact the lives of people living with T1D?
HCT Team: The grant provided will accelerate the development of this CGM, which will have a new sensor membrane and a sub-10% MARD (Mean Absolute Relative Deviation). This level of reliability and accuracy should allow for replacement claim for CGM. The sensor membrane we are funding will be less susceptible to interference from over-the-counter drugs. Better sensing is critical to improving clinical management of T1D. In our opinion, CGM is the gating factor to being able to begin to automate insulin delivery, which could have a dramatic impact on people’s outcomes living with T1D. Data collected from the T1D Exchange shows that 10% of people with T1D, who were receiving care at some of the best endocrinology clinics in the country, had severe hypoglycemic episodes in the past year. In addition, that data shows the average HbA1c of the 26,000+ person cohort is 8.4, which indicates to us that we are failing miserably at controlling T1D. We need better tools that ease the burden of managing this disease and we see the CGM as the key component.
Glu Team: HCT has funded several other device companies and projects. What makes this grant unique from other HCT technology projects?
HCT Team: This grant is one of several the Trust funded for established and growing companies in the early stages of projects to develop innovative technologies to benefit people with T1D. Although there are approximately 2.5 million people with T1D in this country and the incidence is growing 3% annually, T1D does not present a compelling business model for private industry. Why? There are only about 400,000 people who use insulin pumps and a fraction of those use CGMs; that simply isn’t enough end-users to justify the amount of investment it takes to get a product to market for most companies. This is where nonprofit or philanthropic dollars come in. We have funded early stage research at companies to incentivize them to take the risks necessary to develop innovative products that they can later bring to market to help people with T1D.
Glu Team: The Helmsley Charitable Trust’s T1D Program is extremely large and widespread. What message could we deliver to the diabetes community that signifies your mission and dedication?
HCT Team: The T1D program at the Trust is committed to improving the lives of people with the disease. We do fund research aimed at a cure, because we are in this for the long term. However, given the data we now have in T1D Exchange, it is clear to us that we need better tools to manage T1D. We believe technology is the way to deliver the tools that will ease the burden of self-management. In addition, we will continue to fund work aimed at reducing the barriers to patient care, research and development, and tools that empower all in the T1D field like the T1D Exchange. We also fund organizations like summer camps for kids with T1D and grassroots organizations that have an immediate impact on people living with the disease and give us some near-term wins.
Glu Team: In what ways do you think the diabetes community could get involved to help with a united mission to improve outcomes and lift the burden of living with diabetes?
HCT Team: We do not believe that a cure is “just around the corner,” so it is important that people adopt and advocate for better technologies because this is what is likely to have a large impact on better health outcomes for people with the disease. We need to educate the T1D community as to why it is important for funders to push industry to do the things they are not inclined to do because of the business model we described earlier. We need a huge campaign to engage the adult with T1D who is just doing what they do to enlighten them about the new technologies out there and those coming to increase adoption, not for company profit but because it will lead to easing the burden of managing this disease while achieving outcomes, which is what we strive to do.
Glu Team: Thank you, Helmsley, for your continued support and ongoing efforts to help the type 1 community. We know that over the past decades technology has helped to lessen the burden for many living with this disease, and the decision to invest in these devices only strengthens hope for all of us.
To read the full press release from the HCT click here.