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Diabetes: For some misery, for others an opportunity

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What do they say – one man’s trash is another man’s gold! A growing number of startups are looking at the growing incidence of diabetes as an opportunity to take a fresh approach and reinvent how diabetes patients manage and better co-exist with the disease on a daily basis.

One such startup, Palo Alto-based Glooko today announced that it has received $3.5 million in Series A funding from a group of investors led by The Social+Capital Partnership, a investment firm started by former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya. Well known Silicon Valley veterans such as Bill Campbell, Google’s Vint Cerf, and Cisco co-founder Judy Estrin are also investors in the company which has previously raised $1 million in seed funding.

Glooko has developed a MeterSync ($40) cable that plugs into most standard self-monitoring blood glucose meters and the Glooko Logbook app for iOS devices that automatically creates a digital logbook of readings, allows users to review daily blood sugar levels, annotate them and share the results with their physician.

Yogen Dalal, Glooko co-founder and chairman explained to GigaOM that the company is going to use the new funds to focus on supporting more meters and develop an Android app in addition to getting more attention in the market place for its offerings. Glooko is not the only company that is seeking to make a mark in the digital health device business. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2012) there was a noticeable increase in the number of digital health devices.

A growing, global problem

According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes is a group of diseases that impact how our body uses blood sugar. If you have diabetes, you would have too much glucose (sugar) in your blood and this leads to many complications and serious health problems.  It is one of the fastest spreading diseases in the world.

According to American Diabetes Association (ADA) nearly 25.8 million children and adults in the United States of America who are suffering from diabetes. (More stats here at the ADA website.) The situation is equally worse around the world. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, there are 350 million diabetics around the world.

What you need to know

Those statistics might be numbers for you, but for me it is a fact of life. I am one of those millions who have been afflicted by this disease. I have learned to live with it – and medication is only part of the solution. The key to keeping diabetes under check is to exercise, being careful about food intake and most importantly one has to constantly monitor sugar levels. If I don’t, then in a few years it is pretty clear that more serious complications can arise.

How do I keep on top of things? Using a mix of analog and digital solutions. Every time I tested my blood sugar level, I wrote down the reading in a little black book and also in BloodSugar, an iPhone app. I jot down what I eat and when I eat. I monitor my weight on a weekly basis. And at the end of the month, I enter all the data into an excel spreadsheet, which I share with my doctor whenever I see him. This is a painful and arduous process, but I am betting that one (or more) of these new startups will figure out a way to make my life easy.

For instance, Glooko is making it easy for me to take the daily measurement data right out of my diabetes monitor and making it available via their iPhone app and cable. Just like Glooko, I am excited about the upcoming smart logbook app from MySugr, a company based in Vienna, Austria.

The fact that MySugr co-founders Frank Westermann and Frederik Debong are both diabetics is one of the reasons why I feel that they have a proper understanding of the emotional realities of living with the disease. The company has developed a smart logbook (still in alpha) that uses game-mechanics to keep diabetics motivated in taking better care of themselves.

Glooko and MySugr are by no means the only startups. There are many more out there who are working on ways to deal with this growing epidemic. As someone who lives with the reality of diabetes, I can only but welcome your efforts.

11 Responses to “Diabetes: For some misery, for others an opportunity”

  1. Thanks for the article — I’m a Type1 myself! Always glad to see awareness being raised for Diabetes. However, this technology is nothing new and there are far more advanced forms of monitoring in the marketplace already. CGMs that track data and transport them via email and computer are the ‘norm’ in any sort of advanced Type 1 management program.

    From the title I was hoping “opportunity” would be in reference to the health BENEFITS derived from a lifetime of elite management of Type1 diabetes v. the unhealthy habits that most “normal” people exhibit. Strict plant based diet, vigorous exercise, frequent doctor visits — these are the things that actually give Type1s a health ADVANTAGE over their more pancreatic-fortunate peers.

    • Agreed. Articles like this actually do a disservice to all Type 1 diabetics. Your definition is incomplete. Would live to see Type 1 and Type 2 renamed to differentiate the two diseases. That may have been the intent in renaming Juvenile Diabetes to Type 1. I feel we have taken a step backward in this area.

      Foolish people like Paula Deen are not helping.

      I am the son and father of type 1 diabetics.

      • kevin l mcmahon

        Here’s some real clinical results that shows what happens when technology streamlines data collection, analysis and review – the system used in the study is called GlucoMON-ADMS – been around for years. A comparable study of CGM in the same population is also linked. You can see easily that weekly review of the data is all that is needed to make a huge difference. That said, the sad thing is that the majority of patients don’t perform any kind of frequent review for trends. Tech can make managing diabetes easier. Tech can also make it harder. It all depends on the implementation. Randomized Controlled Trial links to Diabetes Care studies at

  2. Sandeep Gautam

    Kind of very weird. Our company, Rapidsoft Systems Inc, created wireless Bluetooth based software for Mobile Phones for reading data from a Glucometer three years ago. The Glucometer was made by one of our clients (Entrahealth Systems). The data was then sent to a server where it was stored and processed. The software was developed for various mobile devices (BB, J2ME phones). We have since then integrated many more mobile devices with medical devices. The use of Cable is so 17th century. Not sure what is unique to it. Sandeep Kumar,

  3. It is hard to keep up with the technology. Many of my patients who are elderly do not use computers at all and are used to writing things down. Others want to E mails and send data to me to interpret and send E mails back to them. While the technology is good, I like to have a patient in my office and review the data and comment on ways to get the numbers to improve. I find a direct discussion of data helps the patient how to understand ways to improve it. Sybil Kramer MD

  4. This has been around the corner for about a decade now, but finally the pieces are in place. My understanding is there are several schemes for non-invasive, continuous monitoring. I saw one a few years ago based on dielectric spectroscopy, but it didn’t pan out — one or more techniques will work and the information gathering and handling is a solved problem.

    Great stuff for those who can afford it or who live in a country with real healthcare. As you say there are real businesses here and in other forms of continuous health monitoring.

    But with Type 2 diabetes there is the issue of prevention. Much of it can be prevented and doing so makes a lot of sense. In theory it is simple, but cracking it and similar maladies has proven to be enormously difficult. That is an area ripe for new approaches.

  5. I think this is an intermediate step. I read some research which suggested that it would be possible to read blood sugars without the need to use a needle. Once thats in place, this app along with that ‘device’ would be ideal – no need to plug in and read data off your blood glucose monitoring kit.

    I think this, along with the cloud could make things so much easier. Lets say the NHS started taking to the cloud and have a centralised NHS app store. Not only for diabetes, all kinds of things. This data could be fed into a rule base and if there is anything unusual or wrong, your mobile device would push a message to you and tell you.

    The future is bright, the future is the cloud :)


  6. Marcus Grimm

    I have my BGs from my OneTouch transmit to my Medtronic pump. My doc’s office can download all of the data off of that. I also have the Glooko cable, which works fine. Unfortunately, they don’t have FDA approval (yet) to crunch the data, so it’s nothing more than a digital log book. But I like their strategy of getting it out in the marketplace sooner, rather than later. When the FDA approval comes, a simple update to the app will crunch the data that’s been input.

  7. Chris Haaker

    I am ready for it – unfortunately, I still have to print out a mountain of paper to take to my doctor. There is no digital way to email or give him the file on USB, etc. They need to do some catching up on their end as well.