Stopping Diabetes Through Innovation

On Nov. 16, dozens of people gathered at Stanford University for the 2012 DiabetesMine Innovation Summit. Patient advocates, entrepreneurs, health care practitioners, device designers, pharmaceutical companies and industry experts all met with one goal in mind: changing the diabetes world for the better through innovative technology. The event was co-hosted by the diabetes news and advocacy blog DiabetesMine and the design firm IDEO.

Of course, the American Diabetes Association was at the table! Chief Executive Officer Larry Hausner and Chief Scientific & Medical Officer Robert Ratner had this to say about their time in Palo Alto, Calif.


Larry Hausner, CEO, American Diabetes Association

Larry Hausner, CEO, American Diabetes Association

The DiabetesMine Innovation Summit was an interesting assembly of folks from industry, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and nonprofits. But most importantly, attendees included empowered patients with diabetes. As you know too well, it takes extraordinary effort to live an ordinary life with diabetes. The patients in attendance knew all about their disease and had many ideas about the improvements needed in diabetes care and technology. What a great opportunity for them to be heard by not only their peer advocates, but by other stakeholders. The room was simultaneously filled with passion, frustration and camaraderie.

Three sessions in particular stood out for me. The first presentation, by the FDA, was a straightforward and honest look at the process for approving medical devices. I felt it gave the audience a good understanding of how it can be a complicated process. Yes, it can be slow, but we also need to understand the risks and benefits associated with the agency’s decisions.

The second session included panels that discussed perceptions of why we couldn’t move the device design and approval process along faster. The participants (patients and individuals from industry and the FDA) had some thoughtful ideas and interesting anecdotes. How can patients contribute to the development process? Why aren’t diabetes devices as “smart” as other technologies? Why can’t diabetes technology communicate with other everyday technology products? There is a strong desire for better standardization among companies and products, both in how data is collected and then how it’s used for diabetes care. The overall feeling was that technology should work for us, not against us.

The third thing that really struck me was the video compilation of the “Diabetes Patient Voices” contest held in conjunction with the summit, in which patients shared what they consider to be the most pressing design needs. The ideas offered by the winners were just terrific; it’s an insightful glimpse into what people with diabetes are most passionate about and the challenges they face in their diabetes care.

It was a very impressive meeting, one that I was very honored and grateful to attend. The Association seeks to prevent and cure diabetes, and also to improve the lives of people affected by the disease. It takes all of us to Stop Diabetes®, and collaborations such as this are where we gain momentum in that fight. A big thank you to DiabetesMine for envisioning and hosting this summit.

Larry Hausner, MBA
Chief Executive Officer
American Diabetes Association


Dr. Robert E. Ratner, Chief Scientific & Medical Officer, American Diabetes Association

Wow, what a meeting!

Diabetes care has come a long way in the last few decades. This is largely due to technological advances, such as insulin pumps that provide better management, continuous blood glucose monitors that can be taken anywhere, and smaller syringes and lancing devices that are less painful to use.

But there’s still much to be done to allow these necessary tools and devices to blend more seamlessly into the lives of the people who rely on them every day. And that’s really what the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit was all about.

So, yes, these products should be user-friendly, but we also need to consider what happens to the data once it is collected. How can it be made (securely) available to health care providers and caregivers? And then how can they interpret the data to provide more personalized care? People want an “open-source” way to manage this information, as they do with other information in their personal and professional lives.

In short, patients want interoperability and connectivity: Meet my needs! Make my life easier! Give me the data so I can do what I want with it! That message was heard loud and clear.

Of course, the group discussed the status and fate of the artificial pancreas, the common name given to the automated, closed-loop blood glucose management system. Spearheaded by JDRF in collaboration with numerous other groups, this project is a challenging task for scientists, but concrete steps have been taken toward making this a reality for people with type 1 diabetes.

As Larry said above, the FDA was challenged with maintaining proper standards and involving patient advocates for best results. But it’s worth noting that the device review and approval process has become remarkably more responsive in the last year or so.

But it wasn’t all about technology, because diabetes care also needs to be personal and humanized. In order to thrive, patients need to build strong emotional relationships with their diabetes care teams and their peers. On Friday, we thought and talked a lot about how the industry can facilitate that.

This was a fascinating gathering for me, as a diabetes practitioner, researcher and Association leader. It was so inspiring to connect with some of the brightest minds in the diabetes world. There are many smart, passionate—and yes, demanding—people working on all fronts to improve outcomes for those with diabetes.

Change needs to happen, is happening and will happen, and it is best achieved through group efforts like this.

Robert E. Ratner, MD, FACP, FACE
Chief Scientific & Medical Officer
American Diabetes Association

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3 Responses to Stopping Diabetes Through Innovation

  1. Lillian Cummings says:

    I have type 2 diabetes….Since 1998…..I have trouble controling my diabetes….My main problem is that i have trouble controling my eating habits…..Most of the time it’s not what i eat as much as how much i eat.. And i know that only i can control that…I like the glucerna shakes but can’t afford them much……And i have no support…..

  2. Nicole Bustamante says:

    I cannot understand why they cannot design a pump to work with a CGM system to dispense automatically?

  3. Lisa Mathes says:

    Please just come up with a cure! I feel like a drug addict having to carry needles around. Can someone invent a way to carry insulin in something besides a cooler. Like a small bag or something to keep the insulin cold while traveling or just for everyday. I have to take a shot after each meal and sometimes I’m not around a refrigerator to keep my insulin.

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