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Diabetes Innovation Challenge: The Semi-Finalists, Pt.1

Little boy with wooden airplane in the field

Did you know that Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, which made the idea of commercial flight safe and available, was sparked by a $25,000 reward for the first person to accomplish the feat?

Today, incentive prizes are being used to jump-start solutions to a range of challenges including space exploration, adult literacy, geo-friendly housing and now — thanks to T1D Exchange, M2D2 and several sponsors — living well with diabetes.




T1D Exchange created a diabetes-specific incentive prize via the Diabetes Innovation Challenge. We designed this event to seek out and find novel therapies and innovative solutions for all aspects of diabetes research, clinical care, and patient quality of life.

In 2016, our incentive prize will provide $150,000 or more in cash or in-kind services (provided by T1D Exchange, M2D2, lead sponsors JDRF and American Diabetes Association, and others) to at least two awardees. Last week we held the first of two Semi-finals events.

Here are some of the great innovators we met:

Early onset of diabetes – can you tell who will get T1D sooner; and then do something about it?

  • Enable Biosciences offers an interesting diagnostic test that is 10,000x more sensitive than today’s auto-antibody testing used in screening people (such as family members of a person with type 1) for likeliness of developing type 1 diabetes. If you can detect it sooner, can you slow or stop someone from developing it?
  • Diamyd Medical thinks you can. They pitched a therapeutic drug that aims to kick-start insulin production in people who have experienced a recent onset of type 1 diabetes. Could this ultimately cure type 1 diabetes in those just developing it? Diamyd hopes for an opportunity to study their drug more thoroughly to learn the results.

Can we detect blood sugar without the need for taking blood?

Two semi-finalists think so!

  • GlucoSight’s innovation measures glucose levels by imaging the pupillary process/response in the eye – and all you need is a smart phone to do it!
  • New England Breath Technologies has created a portable, hand-held, non-invasive monitoring device using the breath of someone with diabetes.

Complications are never easy to talk about in type 1 diabetes….but they can have life-altering implications for those who experience them. Two innovative companies are approaching solutions for different complications in their pitches.

  • Polyphotonix offers a new treatment for the leading cause of blindness in the USA—diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. This innovation is non-invasive and can be used by someone with T1D at night while they sleep. (Today the only treatments currently available are eye injections or laser treatments.)
  • Prosenex offers health care clinicians an objective foot screening tool for peripheral neuropathy. Today, healthcare practioners have no objective way to screen for peripheral neuropathy, leading to differing and missed diagnosis. This objective graded foot screening can help HCPs identify both painless and painful small- and large-nerve fiber peripheral neuropathy – hopefully leading to early intervention to avoid serious foot complications.

Are there more therapeutic options for people with type 1 diabetes? We were pleased to hear from several companies who offered new therapeutic innovations for people with diabetes.

  • Sensulin is developing a Glucose-Responsive Insulin (GRI) that may provide a T1D patient’s entire daily need (basal and prandial) in a single dose, taken with breakfast.
  • Zucara Therapeutics is developing the first drug to prevent hypoglycemia in Type 1 diabetes (T1D) – a potentially dramatic change in T1D disease management.

How else are people innovating around the challenge of diabetes? Let’s face it – until the cure comes, we need as much innovation as possible. Two companies at the challenge brought a fresh look at the challenges of type 1 diabetes:

  • Dibatech pitched a portable insulin storage device designed for third-world countries where it’s a challenge to keep insulin stable at unfavorable temperatures in areas with erratic power supply. This fresh perspective illuminates the different challenges that exist in the global diabetes community —and offers one simple solution that could benefit millions of people.
  • Sproutel presented Jerry the Bear – a smart teddy bear (and best friend?) for children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Children care for Jerry by monitoring his blood sugar, feeding him a healthy diet, and administering insulin. Helping children gain hands on skills in diabetes management through play is something that hits close to home for many families with children living with type 1.

This is just a recap of the many presenters and innovations we saw at our first semi-finals event. Stay tuned for an overview of our second event, held on October 5th and continue to watch Glu for updates on this exciting competition!

– Jill Petrie/GluJill


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