Diabetes startup brews up $11M after 'serendipitous spill' led to creation of new CGM tech

The GWave continuous glucose monitor emits radio waves to measure blood sugar levels in real-time throughout the day, allowing for a noninvasive alternative to traditional CGMs that require a sensor to be implanted under the skin. (Getty Images/suprun)

Many of the most groundbreaking discoveries have happened accidentally: The microwave oven, for one, was developed after physicist Percy Spencer noticed a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted while he was experimenting with a magnetron. Penicillin was born out of the bacteria-killing mold that grew on a petri dish while biologist Alexander Fleming was on vacation.

Perhaps aiming to join their ranks is Israeli startup Hagar, with its GWave technology that measures blood sugar levels using noninvasive radio waves rather than an implanted sensor or repeated fingersticks.

According to Hagar lore, the technology came about after Geri Waintraub, the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer, accidentally spilled a cup of tea on a radio frequency device during a separate research project and concluded that the ensuing reaction was caused by the sugar in his tea. Thus, GWave was born.

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The first generation of the GWave sensor is a device about a third the size of a standard smartphone, inserted into a ceramic bracelet. It uses Bluetooth to transmit its glucose readings to an accompanying mobile app that tracks readings and alerts users to fluctuations in their blood sugar levels.

While radio waves are a form of electromagnetic radiation, GWave produces “significantly less” amounts than a smartphone, according to Hagar.

A proof-of-concept study found the company's radio frequency technology was able to continuously measure glucose levels with at least 90% accuracy, compared to the estimated 70% rate for traditional continuous glucose monitors.

According to the company, that difference stems from the fact that Hagar’s system directly measures glucose in the blood in real time. Other CGMs may use a sensor implanted under the skin to take measurements from the interstitial fluid between cells and may often have to be calibrated throughout the day with routine fingerstick blood tests.

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Backed by those promising results, and with Hagar now planning to launch clinical trials to pursue FDA approval of the GWave system, the company has raised $11.7 million in series B funding.

The financing was led by Columbia Pacific and comes shortly after Hagar closed its series A, which brought in $4.4 million just last March. Those back-to-back funding rounds bring the company’s lifetime funding to just over $17 million.

“With 8.3% of the U.S. population living with diabetes today, that number is projected to rise to one in three adults by 2050. Finding a way to monitor glucose levels in the blood—continuously, painlessly and easily—is life-changing for those living with diabetes, and we are thrilled that our partners at Columbia Pacific are helping us in this journey,” said CEO Guy Zur.

Next up, along with plotting out clinical trials of its technology, Hagar will continue developing the second-generation GWave device. In that iteration, the sensor will be embedded into a smartwatch that will be able to display the readings collected by the GWave mobile app.