Debiotech partners with Swiss academics to create a novel artificial pancreas

The Jewel Pump (right) and the Jewel Com, which controls it--Courtesy of Debiotech

Swiss med tech player Debiotech has partnered to develop a next-gen artificial pancreas for diabetics with a pair of Swiss research centers. The aim is to improve upon the accuracy of automatic insulin delivery by using a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) to control the pump. It will be based on an algorithm designed to estimate patient needs based on their measured glucose levels, the time of day and anticipated activities to adjust the infusion rate from an insulin pump.

A long-standing barrier to marketing an artificial pancreas is creating sufficiently accurate blood glucose data and analysis of that data that the infusion of insulin is automatic.

Existing continuous glucose monitor-insulin pump combos, such as Medtronic's ($MDT) MiniMed, require users to make their own determinations regarding the amount and timing of an insulin dosage. In addition, almost all CGMs require routine, daily finger-sticks for calibration--thereby eliminating much of the advantage of having such a device.

An artificial pancreas is intended to accurately and automatically infuse the proper level of hormones, including insulin, to enable diabetics easily to maintain their glucose levels within prescribed ranges. And while several approaches are in the research and development stages, none have reached the market yet.

"Today, a diabetic patient must follow a very constraining therapy with many blood glucose measurements, dose calculations and insulin injections," Dr. Peter Diem, Head of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition of the Bern University Hospital, said in a statement. "The ideal would be to have a single system that can conduct all of these operations without requiring any intervention." That institution, along with the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research of the University of Bern, are part of this partnership with Debiotech.

The system will include JewelPump, Debiotech's MEMS-integrated and disposable insulin-pump chip technology. With its miniaturized, watertight patch-pump it can dispense up to 500U of insulin over up to 7 days. The device integrates with a smart device app that includes a blood glucose monitor reader as well as bolus calculator. The new artificial pancreas algorithm will run on the wireless PDA device that's already used now to program the JewelPump.

Earlier this year, Debiotech gained an option to in-license continuous glucose monitoring technology that was formerly Bayer's; the company said at the time it would use in combination with the JewelPump to develop an artificial pancreas.

"Approaches taken so far do not resolve fundamental difficulties: the patients' variability, uncertainties related to system disturbances, e.g. food intake and physical activity, and errors related to the used devices,"Stavroula Mougiakakou, Head of the Diabetes Technology Research Group at the ARTORG Center, said in a statement.

He added, "The proposed algorithm is easy to use, introduces the concept of real-time personalisation based on reinforcement learning, a machine learning method, is able to tackle inter- and intra-patient variability, and can compensate for the effects of uncertain events."

- here is the announcement