The Wireless Age in Diabetes: Insulet Raises $50 Million
This article was originally published in Start Up
Insulet, developer of a fundamentally new insulin delivery system, just raised $50 million in its fifth venture round. This brings the total it's raised to date to more than $120 million, which sounds like a tremendous sum for a small device company founded just six years ago, but relative to the size of the opportunity it's really not. There are one million diabetic patients who need to inject insulin several times a day to manage their diabetes. For these patients, Insulet has brought insulin pumps into the age of iPods.
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Small company DexCom, finds itself a leader in continuous glucose monitoring, the hottest new segment of glucose monitoring, a business otherwise dominated by giant companies. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is all the buzz at diabetes and critical care clinical meetings these days. CGM systems give diabetic patients in the home (or the hospital) glucose readings at any hour of the day without the need to get out the finger-stick testing paraphernalia. More than that, though, CGM is a new tool for achieving tight glycemic control, and avoiding the excursions above and below the normal glucose levels, which are responsible for the hospitalizations as well as the long-term harmful consequences of diabetes. As a frontrunner in the field, DexCom shares with Medtronic the challenge of proving the value of CGM to payers, especially since the task involves throwing over the gold standard by which successful glycemic control is measured-the HbA1c test.
Laying out a strategy is one thing; executing it is another. That's why, from time to time, START-UP revisits companies it has written about in the past to find out what went according to plan, and what didn't. As we revisit the field of glucose monitoring--a field with a high attrition rate, we'll see if we can draw out some lessons, both from the successes and from the failures, for those starting out today. (Introduction to three separate articles in the December 2007 issue: "Pelikan Technologies Swoops in on the Big Four"; "A Decade of Development for SMSI: Will It Yield Improved Accuracy in CGM?" and "GlucoLight Makes Non-invasive Glucose Monitoring Real.")
The goals being touted in the treatment of diabetes are lofty, with the development of a functional and affordable artificial pancreas topping the list of ambitious undertakings in the industry. The pursuit of such a device has been a Holy Grail quest for some time now, and over the years the feasibility of developing a man-made mechanism to take the place of a faulty body organ has been treated with a share of optimism and skepticism. However, based on recent FDA approvals for multiple manufacturers, it appears the industry is closer than it has ever been to making this goal a reality.