Patients Pending, a London-based health startup founded by one of the co-creators of Skype and his brother, has announced that it will follow up its Timesulin insulin pen cap with a Bluetooth-connected insulin pen cap, which the company hopes will help create smart dosing systems for patients with Type 1 diabetes who don’t use an insulin pump.
“Our hypothesis has been, so much of the investment in diabetes has gone into fully automated closed-loop systems, but the rest of the world is not using pumps — it’s a small, small subsection of people that are able to and have insurance that will pay for it,” CEO and cofounder John Sjölund told MobiHealthNews. “The overwhelming majority are using pens, so let’s give them that same functionality. Let’s give them the data from an insulin pump in an insulin pen.”
Sjölund, whose brother and cofounder Andreas was a co-creator of Skype, lives with Type 1 diabetes and comes from a marketing technology and analytics background. The two of them started Patients Pending in 2010 and introduced Timesulin, an insulin pen cap with a built in timer that would automatically start timing whenever it was removed from the pen long enough for the user to make an injection. Sjölund says that according to the company’s research, 93 percent of insulin pen users forget whether they took their insulin at least once a month — a situation that can lead to a dangerous double dose or missed dose.
At this point Timesulin has been in the market a number of years, and Sjölund estimates they have about 200,000 users. The next move for the company is a move into the connected device space with a Bluetooth-connected pen that will send data to a mobile app. As they did with the Timesulin cap, the company will build a device that replaces the existing cap on a range of pens in the market from companies like Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Company, and Sanofi.
“I believe that the insulin data is the most important data that we have,” Sjölund said. “Currently, every time you turn the dial and inject yourself, it just disappears. All of the blood sugar [meters] and especially the CGMs, they exist, they’re good enough and the apps exist and they’re getting better. But the insulin information is just missing. And that’s the piece of the pie we bring out, and what’s important is the accuracy we bring to the table.”
The company hopes to have that product available next year. Sjölund believes it will require FDA clearance as a Class 2 device. The company doesn’t plan to build an app to connect to the device, but instead partner with an established app company or even a medical device company like Medtronic or Dexcom.
Sjölund believes that Patients Pending has stumbled upon a relatively unexplored niche in the diabetes management space. While a few other companies are working on ways to get data from insulin pens to a smartphone (one we’ve been tracking is Lilly-backed Companion Medical, which just received FDA clearance), most are building a complete pen, rather than a cap that works with a patient’s existing device. And creating an accurate sensor is a daunting challenge, Sjölund said.
“We’ve learned a lot along this journey and Timesulin, our existing product, almost became a company and a product by accident,” he said. “I was trying to solve my own problem of forgotten injections and — oops — it became a company. But it’s always been our goal to try to take our experience in data and usability and really make a difference.”