Medtronic, Qualcomm partner for disposable, connected Type 2 diabetes continuous glucose monitors

Self-monitoring blood glucose is relatively uncommon among diabetes patients in developing nations. Type 2 diabetics in countries including China and India, where the next massive wave of diabetes patients is emerging, typically don't monitor themselves on a daily basis as is the standard of care in developed economies. These patients receive occasional in-clinic monitoring--if any at all.

A staggering 400 million people have Type 2 diabetes globally, as the forces of urbanization induce massive dietary and lifestyle changes that underlie the disease. The vast majority of them have no access to self-monitoring technology for their blood glucose levels. Without that information to help keep their levels within an acceptable range, they are subject to major complications including blindness, loss of limbs and death.

Now, the largest continuous blood glucose monitor player, Medtronic ($MDT), has started an ambitious project with partner Qualcomm ($QCOM) that's expected to lead to a disposable continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for this enormous underserved Type 2 diabetes population. Med tech development for emerging nations has the potential to leapfrog that in developed economies--particularly as it taps into the almost ubiquitous computing power of the smartphone.

Laura Stoltenberg, Medtronic VP and GM for Non-Intensive Diabetes Therapies

"Professional CGM is an increasingly used diagnostic tool that empowers physicians and patients with meaningful glucose data to tackle glucose control," said Medtronic VP and GM for Non-Intensive Diabetes Therapies Laura Stoltenberg in a statement. "Our solutions go beyond delivering data and provide automated observations and clinical decision support to help create a personalized care plan. Our vision is to transform diabetes care so people with diabetes can enjoy greater freedom and better health."

Professional CGMs are marketed by companies including Medtronic and Abbott ($ABT) for in-clinic use to track blood glucose. They are the typical technologies that are aimed at emerging markets.

The collaboration's goal is "to develop innovative and affordable CGM systems that will fundamentally change type 2 diabetes management," Stoltenberg said.

Medtronic accounts for roughly half of the relatively small CGM market, which hit almost $450 million in revenues at the end of last year, according to market research firm and consultancy Future Market Insights. The other two major CGM players are Dexcom ($DXCM) and Abbott, which hold roughly one-third and one-sixth of the market share, respectively. Currently, CGM technology is typically used by people with Type 1 diabetes, although it's rapidly becoming more available to those with Type 2 diabetes as the technology options expand.

Medtronic and Qualcomm aren't alone in aiming for a disposable CGM for emerging and developed markets. Last year, Dexcom partnered with Verily, an Alphabet ($GOOG) subsidiary, to develop next-gen continuous glucose monitors. The first is slated to be a miniature CGM that's due in 2018 and the second is a Band-Aid sized, disposable CGM that's due in 2021.

For its part, Abbott has been focused on its Freestyle Libre CGM, which was approved in Europe without the need for the twice-daily finger-sticks that are typical for most of these devices. It won the CE mark for adult use in 2014 and, earlier this year, it was expanded to children. The company has yet to disclose a timeline for its regulatory and market plans in the U.S.

The Medtronic-Qualcomm deal specifically aims to develop next-gen CGMs. Medtronic brings to the table its market leader spot in the field, of course, while Qualcomm brings its tech in wireless, single-use and small integrated modules to develop a new sensor and smaller design for an affordable, single-use system.

"This collaboration furthers our commitment of enabling new connected care models that liberate vital data and unlock insights to deliver intelligent care wherever the patient may be," said Qualcomm Life President and GM Rick Valencia.

Qualcomm Life was created in 2011 to offer the company entry into medical device connectivity. Recently, the division has been active with a series of deals with partners including Novartis ($NVS), UnitedHealthcare ($UNH) and Cerner ($CERN).

- here is the announcement