Diabetics can often beat back the effects of their disease through their own actions such as diet and exercise. But when it comes to adjusting their insulin dosages to better control their blood-sugar levels, they typically need to consult a doctor or clinician. Ann Arbor, MI-based Hygieia is developing technology to put changing insulin dosages into the hands of patients.
“What we were able to do is develop software that can replicate the way a clinician thinks and provide a recommendation that is similar to what an expert would have done,” says Eran Bashan, co-founder and CEO of Hygieia.
The startup is developing software—now being tested in a clinical trial at the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis—that analyzes a patient’s current and historical blood glucose readings to tell him or her how much insulin to take. The goal is to get patients’ blood sugar to healthy levels and reduce their risk of developing complications from the disease.
Studies show that lowering blood-sugar levels in diabetics leads to a reduced risk of loss of sight, kidney dysfunction, and neurological damage due. With nearly 24 million diabetics in the U.S., controlling and preventing the disease is a major priority in the healthcare system. And though there are about 6.2 billion glucose tests done in this country each year, Bashan says, physicians only see the results of a scant 1 percent to 2 percent of the tests.
Enter Hygieia’s co-founders Bashan and Israel Hodish, a physician at the University of Michigan Medical School. Bashan, who earned his doctorate in electrical engineering at U-M, says that he worked with Hodish to develop software that essentially automated the analysis that the physician does while figuring out the best insulin dosages for his patients.
There are now some 40 patients enrolled in a clinical trial of the software in Minneapolis, Bashan says, and the firm’s plan is to put the software into a smartphone-sized device and release it later this year. The device would measure a patient’s glucose levels, store the data, and use its insulin-dose software to analyze the data and, when needed, recommend dosage changes. While the software is being tested in the clinical trial, the firm’s planned device is not, he says.
Hygieia wants to raise $10 million in a Series A round of venture capital to complete its clinical trial and support the commercial launch of its technology, Bashan says. The firm says that it has already raised about $700,000 from angel investors. Last month it received a big endorsement by winning a $25,000 prize for being the top medical devices company in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Ann Arbor. (Here’s more on the major business plan contest and the $500,000 grand-prize winner.)
Perhaps even more impressive are the people behind Hygieia. According to the firm’s website, two of its clinical advisors are Martin Abrahamson, the chief medical officer of the much revered Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, and Richard Bergenstal, who is president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association. The association provides guidelines for diabetes care for physicians around the country.
Still, insulin-dosage software has very little track record in the hands of patients. Even in Hygieia’s clinical trial, participants are supposed to get weekly calls from the study team, according to ClinicalTrials.gov. There are major competitors in the business of providing diabetes management technologies such as French firm Sanofi-Aventis and the Swiss healthcare giant Roche. There are also disease-management firms that offer telemedicine services and other programs for diabetics.
However, healthcare providers are searching for ways to improve care for diabetics without breaking the bank with more frequent visits between patients and doctors. Hygieia’s technology, though certainly not a panacea for the country’s diabetes epidemic, might offer a way to let some patients better manage their disease more or less on their own.
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