Novel Blood Glucose Device Wins ADA Tech Challenge
A device that fits on the back of a cell phone and enables people with diabetes to conveniently and discreetly check their blood glucose won the American Diabetes Association’s 2016 Venture to Stop Diabetes Challenge.
Pops Diabetes Care Inc. of Stillwater, Minnesota, developed the prototype and was awarded a grand prize of $10,000. Chief Executive Officer Lonny Stormo, who has type 1 diabetes, says he grew frustrated with the limitations of tools and technology in making blood glucose management seamless. So he set out to find a solution.
“I wanted to be very active and take care of myself, and I couldn’t test my blood sugar when I was out for a run,” he says. “The test kit wasn’t going to fit in my running shorts. I didn’t like a continuous [glucose] monitor for a variety of reasons.”
Stormo’s team developed a portable device that’s the size of a chewing gum pack and fits on the back of a smartphone. It houses three tiny lancets and three test strips—no need to pull them out of the pack; just prick your finger, dab the blood, and the integrated meter will calculate your glucose level. Results are wirelessly uploaded to an app to make them available to family members and caregivers. “You get results quickly, it’s less painful, and it’s discreet. And you don’t have to put a test kit together,” Stormo says. The app also shows trends in glucose levels, helping people to identify periods of concern on a given day and make changes accordingly.
The app is tailored to individual age groups. Children can earn points and badges for healthy behaviors that lead to good A1C levels. Teens can set up social groups with a small circle of friends to challenge each other to reach desired results and to share positive news. The app is user friendly, but it’s unlike others that simply track carbs, calories, and activity levels. “We’re taking our app a step further than anything we’ve seen in terms of making it your personal friend. It’s adapting to you, addressing you like a friend would, and encouraging you,” Stormo says. “We’re encouraging desired behavior and challenging users to reach new levels of achievement.”
Stormo founded Pops with his daughter and three partners last year. He left his electrical engineer job at Medtronic Cardiovascular after 30 years. He plans to submit his mobile device to the Food and Drug Administration for approval in the not-too-distant future.
The Venture to Stop Diabetes Challenge, which was held at the American Diabetes Association EXPO® in Chicago in April, underscored the Association’s emerging role in bringing together community-based innovators, entrepreneurs, and others offering new strategies and solutions to address diabetes management, care, and education. Finalists in the competition were judged on relevance, creativity and innovation, feasibility and sustainability, and organization and clarity. The competition was somewhat similar to the popular TV show Shark Tank, on which presenters pitch their products to a panel of judges.
Eric Louie, MD, one of the judges and chief medical officer at Healthbox, a company that fosters health care innovation by entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and investors, says he expects Stormo’s device to be particularly appealing to kids.
“I thought, ‘What a clever idea to take something that’s common, a smartphone, and apply it in a way that breaks down social and psychological barriers.’ Everyone carries around a cell phone so it’s very natural and fairly unobtrusive [to carry and use the device],” Louie says. “It’s empowering.”