Researchers have gained federal approval for the next key testing phase for a new, University of Virginia-designed, cell phone-based artificial pancreas they hope could soon help millions of diabetes patients.
An upgrade from a previous, laptop-based device, the gadget combines a smartphone, an insulin pump and a blood sugar monitor. Inpatient trials in Virginia and Europe and outpatient trials in Europe have shown promise, according to experts.
Boris Kovatchev, a mathematician by training, said the first attempts at an artificial pancreas date to 1974. Back then, he said, the devices were refrigerator-sized. The other UVa scientist leading the team is Patrick Keith-Hynes.
The most recent iteration of the device used a laptop computer, rather than a cell phone. It wasn’t until June of last year that scientists “actually managed to pull … off” running the system on a cell phone, Kovatchev said.
The phone, being used strictly for its processor and not at all as a phone, has so far proved substantially less error-prone than the laptop.
The initial trial, with five slots locally, drew 300 requests, Kovatchev said.
There will be another 15 slots around the globe, he said.
Kovatchev hopes to start the next phase in July and a large-scale trial in 2013. By early- to mid-2014 he hopes to have the technology, which he touts as entirely Virginia-developed, ready for the transition to industry.
The device’s development has been underwritten by Paul and Diane Manning of Charlottesville, the Frederick Banting Foundation of Richmond and the JDRF (formerly referred to as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).