People to Know 2016: Boris Kovatchev, PhD
Boris Kovatchev can’t help but marvel at how far science has advanced the care of diabetes, especially when he thinks back to his childhood and the scarcity of resources available to help manage his father’s diabetes. As director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Diabetes Technology and professor at its School of Medicine, Boris is working to ensure the field advances a whole lot more.
For the past 20 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded his team of 25 investigators in their quest to design an artificial pancreas. They’re creating an algorithm that would enable closed-loop control of an insulin pump, using inputs from a continuous glucose monitor. Boris’s dream is close to being realized: The artificial pancreas will be tested in the forthcoming NIH-funded International Diabetes Closed Loop Trial.
A more immediate application for Boris’s work can be seen in InSpark Technology’s latest venture. The company has licensed the pattern-recognition algorithms developed by Boris’s team and used them to develop the Vigilant app, available now for free on Apple and Android devices. Vigilant pairs with the Accu-Chek Aviva Connect meter (which is sold separately), so blood glucose readings are wirelessly transmitted to the app. Because Vigilant is integrated with the HealthKit app, people using meters that work with HealthKit-integrated apps can also send glucose readings and get notifications about periods of risk. People who use other meter brands can still download Vigilant, but they’ll need to manually input glucose readings.
All of that collected data helps Vigilant spot blood glucose patterns. And the more a person tests (three times a day is the minimum for the app to work), the better the app can alert users to periods of risk, which helps them head off hypoglycemia before it happens. Boris’s remarkable contributions show how technology, biology, mathematics, and industry collaboration are rapidly advancing the precision of diabetes care.
Eric Louie, MD, MBA, FACC, is the chief medical officer of Healthbox, an innovation platform that helps entrepreneurs build transformative solutions and works with leading health care organizations to create healthy communities. He previously served as professor of medicine and associate director of cardiology at Loyola University Medical Center and chief medical officer of Sg2, a thought leadership and health care data analytics firm.