Diabetes news roundup: NovioSense funding, Tandem adds Bluetooth, Scripps gets text messaging grant

By Jonah Comstock
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Three bits of news this week from companies working on diabetes management offerings might be of interest to anyone interested in digital health. 

First off, NovioSense, a Dutch company developing a smartphone-connected tear-based glucose sensor that sits in the lower eyelid, secured an undisclosed amount of new funding. The round included existing investors Health Innovations, Topfonds Gelderland, Fraunhofer Ventures and NovioTech along with two new US based investors. 

"Our device will deliver pain-free continuous glucose monitoring to all individuals with diabetes at an affordable price," NovioSense CEO Dr. Christopher Wilson said in a statement. "By utilising NFC technology found in most smartphones, our pain-free non-invasive sensor platform is employed by users to continuously monitor glucose readings, an effective component to any glucose management system." 

The company is currently targeting a 2019 launch.

Second, insulin pump maker Tandem Diabetes began shipping its t:slim X2 Insulin Pump. While the company didn't announce an app per se, the new pump does have a Bluetooth radio which would allow it to connect to an app in the future. It also allows the pump to continuously update its software as new features are approved by the FDA. In a release, the company described the Bluetooth radio as "capable of communicating with compatible devices and future technologies", suggesting a companion app is a possibility down the road.

Finally, the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute, part of Scripps Health in San Diego, secured a $2.9 million grant from the NIH to study text messaging in high-risk Hispanic populations in San Diego county. The study, called Dulce Digital-Me, will see participants using wireless devices to track their blood-sugar levels and medication adherence during a six-month study period.

All of the 414 participants will receive text messages, but half will get personalized text messages promoting good nutritional and exercise habits and reminding them to monitor blood sugar and take medications, while the other half will get standard, one-size-fits-all messages. The experiment group will also be asked brief questions about diet, exercise and stress levels via text message. An algorothm will craft personal messages based on the replies to those questions and data from the wireless devices. Outcome measures will include hemoglobin A1c levels, LDL cholesterol levels and systolic blood pressure.

“Our success attracting financial support from the NIH clearly demonstrates the value of the research we are doing to better understand and treat a disease that is rising in epidemic proportions in our country and occurs more frequently among Hispanics, who also often experience worse health outcomes,” Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas, corporate vice president for the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute, said in a statement. “We believe our work will identify innovative, cost-effective ways to improve diabetes care and help to reduce health disparities among this underserved population.”