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Medtronic teams with Israeli company DreaMed Diabetes on artificial pancreas

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Monday, April 13th, 2015

Medtronic will use the technology of Israeli company DreaMed Diabetes for automatic regulation of insulin release.

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As reported in Globes: Medtronic has invested $2 million in Israeli company DreaMed Diabetes, and signed a development and marketing deal with it. DreaMed has developed technology that connects continuous insulin sensors with insulin pumps. Under the deal, Medtronic will integrate DreaMed’s program in its diabetes products, and will pay DreaMed royalties for each such product sold.

DreaMed’s technology is already approved for marketing in Europe, but it appears Medtronic will try and obtain a license for the product and the program from the regulatory authorities in the EU and the US. Despite the fact that the process may be a long one, this is a vote of confidence on the part of Medtronic, which has a market cap of $75 billion. The technology was first developed at Clalit Group’s Schneider Children’s Medical Center, and Clalit’s technology commercialization company, Mor Research Applications Limited, transferred it to DreaMed.

Prof. Moshe Phillip, who is director of the Institute for Endocrinology and Diabetes at Schneider Children’s Medical Center, is chairman and chief scientific officer of DreaMed Diabetes. The dream of the “artificial pancreas” for diabetes patients, which Medtronic has set as its goal, is the automatic connection to a device that senses glucose levels in the blood. The device includes a program that calculates how much insulin to give in order to balance glucose levels, and then transmits the information to the insulin pump, which administers the desired amount. Today, the loop is “unclosed,” or, more accurately, it is closed by the patient himself. The patient measures his or her glucose levels and calculates mathematically – but also using intuition, and past experience with personal reactions – the correct amount of insulin to administer. The first automated systems that attempted to “close the loop” lacked this “intuition” entirely, and their results were therefore poor. DreaMed Diabetes CEO Eran Atlas says, “We have a system from the field of ‘fuzzy logic,’ which sees a broad spectrum of shades of grey, between the ‘white’ goal, and the ‘black’ danger areas. The system also adapts itself to the individual patient’s insulin response. Based on the initial, real-time response to the insulin, the system decides how much more to administer.”

DreaMed holds a patent for these features, and although a number of other companies around the world claim that they too have technology that can close the loop, the fact that Medtronic has signed a deal with DreaMed suggests that there is something special about DreaMed’s technology.

DreaMed plans to develop its algorithm in areas other than diabetes, as well as for use by patients who do not use a continuous glucose sensor and insulin pump, rather prick tests and manual injections, which is the case for the majority of diabetes patients worldwide. These patients can still benefit from technology that helps to calculate how much insulin they need.

DreaMed is currently raising funds to develop areas that are not related to Medtronic’s investment. Their most futuristic dream is that this entire system – the sensor, the pump, and the program – will be implanted in the body, and diabetes patients will not need to deal with it at all, as opposed to the situation today, where diabetes patients must engage in calculations and plans for their glucose levels all day, every day, with no respite, even for a single day.