Medtronic, J&J race toward artificial pancreas

Medtronic is seeking FDA approval for its combination Paradigm Veo device.--Courtesy of Medtronic

Despite all the advances in medical devices for Type 1 diabetes, nothing resembling an artificial pancreas has made its way to the market stateside, but companies like Medtronic ($MDT), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Tandem are working to push the technology forward.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, Medtronic is going through the FDA process with Paradigm Veo, a closed-loop insulin pump that can detect blood glucose content and suspend delivery when it veers from healthy levels, slashing rates of hypoglycemia. Meanwhile, Animas, J&J's diabetes unit, is co-developing a combination insulin pump-blood glucose monitor with Dexcom ($DXCM), also seeking FDA approval.

And while those devices promise to ease the lives of U.S. diabetics, the gold standard remains a full-fledged artificial pancreas: an implanted device that can continuously monitor blood sugar and mete out insulin as needed.

Johnson & Johnson is conducting a second feasibility study on its artificial pancreas.--Courtesy of J&J

Animas leads the way on that front, working through a second feasibility study of its external device, but Tandem and Medtronic have partnered with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to advance their technologies toward realizing a fully automated monitor/pump combo.

Along the way, each company is vying for dominance in the swelling diabetes market, and whoever can first commercialize a major advance in the convenience of treatment for the country's more than 1 million patients with Type 1 diabetes will likely reap a hefty windfall.

"The end of the rainbow is some automated device that will be able to come close to normalizing glucose," Medtronic Diabetes CMO Francine Kaufman told the WSJ.

- read the WSJ story

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated how Paradigm Veo operates. We regret the error.