Medtronic leaps toward artificial pancreas with MiniMed study

Medtronic reported positive results for its sensor-equipped insulin pump.--Courtesy of Medtronic

Medtronic's ($MDT) sensor-integrated insulin pump maintained reduced overnight hypoglycemia rates in patients with Type 1 diabetes in a new study, results the company said are a major step toward developing an artificial pancreas.

In the study, Medtronic tested 247 diabetics, outfitting about half of them with its MiniMed integrated system, which pairs continuous glucose monitoring with insulin infusion, and the other half with a standard insulin pump. In results released at the weekend's annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, the combo device reduced the rates of nocturnal hypoglycemic events by 31.8% and lowered magnitude and duration by 37.5%, all with no serious adverse events.

The device is outfitted with Medtronic's Threshold Suspend technology, in which on-board sensors read blood glucose levels and taper off insulin infusion depending on the patient's state. The latest trial, dubbed ASPIRE In-Home, is an FDA-approved study Medtronic hopes will catapult the device to U.S. approval and change the lives of Type 1 diabetics at risk for nocturnal hypoglycemia, Diabetes Vice President Francine Kaufman said.

"ASPIRE In-Home met both its safety and efficacy endpoints and it provides additional clinical validation for Threshold Suspend, the first diabetes technology to automatically take action based on sensor glucose values," Kaufman said in a statement. "The study results are important as we continue to move toward our goal of developing a fully automated system, or artificial pancreas, that will one day require very minimal interaction from the patient."

The company is among a bevy of device manufacturers toiling in the artificial pancreas project, working to develop a fully automated monitor-pump combination that duplicates the work of a healthy organ. Medtronic has joined with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to push its program forward, but so too have competitors Becton Dickinson ($BDX), Tandem and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ).

So far, J&J and its Animas unit lead the pack; they've completed a second feasibility study of the Hypoglycemia-Hyperglycemia Minimizer System. The device uses a proprietary algorithm to predict the rise and fall of glucose levels, and, in an overnight study of 20 Type 1 diabetics, patients spent about 90% of the period within a healthy blood glucose range.

- read more on the study