People to Know 2017: Brianna Wolin
I first met Brianna Wolin in Denmark, where we were finalists for the inaugural Lyfebulb Novo Nordisk Patient Innovation Award for patient entrepreneurs in diabetes. Brianna stood out with her radiant smile, optimism, and passion for her project, Find Your Ditto, which matches people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes for informal peer support. By addressing a problem that’s so common for people with diabetes—isolation and lack of peer support—she won the competition.
Brianna’s college experience inspired her and cofounder Parisa Soraya to create Find Your Ditto. In addition to studying for her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, Brianna had to manage her type 1 diabetes and celiac disease—no easy task, as I saw firsthand in Copenhagen.
But one of the most challenging aspects of managing diabetes, for her, was a pervasive sense of isolation. “I felt like there was no one on campus who was dealing with my strenuous course load and also dealing with the trials of type 1 diabetes,” she told me. “So many people want to sit and have a cup of coffee with a peer living with their condition and not even talk about the condition itself … just to know that they understand.”
When my brother, my friend, and I created Timesulin seven years ago, we were shocked to find our simple idea—a timer on an insulin pen cap—didn’t yet exist. If there’s one thing I learned while jumping into the world of diabetes technology, it’s this: Often the people best equipped to determine the needs of people with diabetes are those living with the condition day in and day out. That’s what sparks innovation like Brianna’s.
The Author: John Sjölund has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 30 years. His first venture, the insulin pen cap Timesulin, uses a timer to display how long it’s been since a user’s last insulin injection. He’s now working with tech leader Bigfoot Biomedical (which acquired his Patients Pending, the company behind Timesulin, over the summer) on a project that he hopes will one day bring the benefits of closed-loop insulin delivery systems to pen users.