Diabetes Innovator: John Mastrototaro
John Mastrototaro, MS, PhD
If you wear a continuous glucose monitor, you're familiar with the work of John Mastrototaro, MS, PhD. Back in 1989, Eli Lilly tapped the biomedical engineer to apply glucose-sensing technology to diabetes. Four years later, he was hired by MiniMed to develop a continuous glucose monitoring program. The resulting product became the first government-approved portable CGM. Mastrototaro went on to create the first CGM to record glucose levels in "real time" and then the first combo pump-CGM, of which the company's Real-Time Revel is the second generation. His latest achievement: the first combo device to suspend insulin activity for two hours based on low blood glucose levels. "That's our first baby step toward the artificial pancreas," he says of the Paradigm Veo, which is awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval but is available in Europe.
Now, as Medtronic Diabetes vice president of research and development, Mastrototaro is already looking toward the next big thing: a combo pump-CGM that temporarily suspends insulin before a person goes too low. The design is complete, and Mastrototaro and his team are working through the final aspects of product development.
But don't expect an artificial pancreas too soon. Safety is paramount when a device begins relying more on technology and less on a person. "Now you're talking about giving insulin [as opposed to the Veo's ability to stop delivery]," Mastrototaro says. The potential for hypoglycemia is huge if the sensor gives a falsely high reading and the pump gives too much insulin. Mastrototaro says the solution may be to have backup sensors to double-check glucose readings.
It's a heady time to be Mastrototaro. "It's so exciting today how quickly the new technology is developed compared to what it was 10 years ago," he says. "These significant advancements are right on the cusp of being available."