Muhammad Mujeeb-U-Rahman was heading off to graduate school in 2007 when his mother was diagnosed with diabetes. The young engineer watched as she struggled with the daily finger pricks needed to monitor her blood glucose levels.
As a grad student at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Mujeeb-U-Rahman resolved to invent an implantable glucose monitor that people with diabetes would want to use over fingersticks.
It was the start of a decade-long odyssey that followed Mujeeb-U-Rahman through graduate school, and eventually became an integral part of his PhD research. In 2015, he founded Integrated Medical Sensors, bringing together a team of international experts and colleagues from Caltech to continue the development of the device outside the confines of academia.
Throughout his research and development process, Mujeeb-U-Rahman kept his mother’s experience at the forefront of his mind. He wanted the device to be tiny, unobtrusive, and painless – something his mother and other diabetes patients would realistically use.
“Our main issue was, if you need to make sensors, you should make them as small as possible so people are not afraid of using them,” he said. “They should last for a long time, [and] they should be low-cost.”
Today, Mujeeb-U-Rahman has a workable prototype of his invention – a glucose monitor smaller than a sesame seed that is implanted just underneath the skin. This tiny device measures glucose levels and transmits that information wirelessly to an external device.
The implant lasts for six months, at which point a patient can simply use tweezers to locate a thin thread and gently tug the device out of the skin.
Mujeeb-U-Rahman is still finalizing some of the engineering components of his device. For example, he’s currently working to solve the problem of how best to implant the device; it currently is done in a medical clinic by inserting a thin needle just under the skin. In an ideal world, he said, he’ll be able to provide patients with an at-home applicator so they don’t have to visit a clinic to get the device inserted. As part of that work, he’s transitioning the insertion device to a 30-gauge needle, which is about the same size as a needle used for insulin delivery.
He and his colleagues are working to simplify the wireless interface, as well. In its current iteration, the device communicates with a small device that must be worn at all times. That device in turn transmits data to a mobile app, so patients can monitor their glucose levels. Mujeeb-U-Rahman believes that in the future, he’ll be able to integrate the wireless functionality directly into an app or smart watch so that patients don’t have to wear an additional wireless monitor.
Integrated Medical Sensors was one of the winners of the 2016 T1D Exchange Diabetes Innovation Challenge – an accolade that Mujeeb-U-Rahman said helped prompt in-kind support from experts in accounting and patent applications. The company has received financial support from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF), as well.
Thanks to this support, R&D at Integrated Medical Sensors is moving along quickly. The company has already completed studies in pigs, and is planning to move forward with in-human testing by 2020.
Integrated Medical Sensors does face some competition from competitor devices, such as Senseonics, which recently landed FDA approval for its implantable continuous glucose monitoring system that lasts for three months. However, Mujeeb-U-Rahman is convinced he’s found the right combination of usable technology and size factor.
Although the journey has been a long one, Mujeeb-U-Rahman won’t settle for anything less than a highly miniaturized medical device that is as unobtrusive as possible for patients.
“This is very close to my heart,” he said. “A lot of patients email us and tell us the problems with their current devices.”
For Mujeeb-U-Rahman, each day is a constant reminder that life could be easier for patients like his mom.
Please note: The photo for this article was not provided by Integrated Medical Sensors, and is not of the technology being developed. It was chosen by the T1D Exchange Glu editorial staff to provide a similar-sized representation of the proposed CGM.