TechConnect Innovation Spotlight: Diabetes Control Algorithms and Clinical Trial Software

February 18, 2014 03:42 PM EST By: Regina Ramazzini

University of California, Santa Barbara participated at the TechConnect World-National Innovation Summit 2013, Washington, DC
Dr. Francis Doyle is a professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is responsible for the development of the artificial pancreas technology for type 1-diabetes patients.

Before arriving at UCSB, Dr. Doyle was a faculty member at the University of Delaware, as well as at University of Purdue. At UCSB, his current research focuses on the application of systems engineering tools to solve problems in medicine and biology.

Dr. Doyle told TechConnect News, “The overarching goal of the artificial pancreas is to automatically detect the need for insulin based on blood sugar, and to administer the insulin from a continuous pump. The pumps and sensors are available on the market today, but no one has connected them to perform an automated solution such as ours.” This revolutionary medical device would liberate type 1 diabetics from having to spot measure their glucose, and from sticking themselves with needles to inject their insulin.

We asked Dr. Doyle of any developments since the TechConnect National Innovation Summit last spring, and he shared: “Since the conference, we have moved into out-patient testing of the algorithms. At the core of our technology is software and algorithms for controlling these devices. We have been doing a lot of in clinic testing for the last 5 years or so, and recently had our first cohort of subjects go through an out-patient test. They stayed in a hotel, ate in restaurants, had their usual food and exercise, and they got to try the device away from a clinic, and away from a hospital. We were able to see how robust the algorithm is and it did very well. Subjects reported very tight controls and blood sugars were maintained carefully between the boundaries.” The positive results have escalated the studies to get more and more experience outside the clinic. The goals for Dr. Doyle and his team are to prove that the device is robust outside the clinic, to give it the real world treatment, and see how the device performs. The challenge will be to maintain the device as a safe and effective medical device, despite the wide array of risks to the human body when out and about in the real world.

Dr. Doyle and his team began collaborating with the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute on the Artificial Pancreas Project about 10 years ago. Sansum Diabetes Research Institute is an internationally recognized research center devoted to the prevention, treatment and cure of diabetes. The partnership has brought together the leading UCSB biomedical engineers and the world class leading physicians at Sansum. Dr Doyle pointed out the crucial role of the medical collaborators at Sansum, noting “our work is medically-inspired engineering. The doctors identify the medical priorities for us, and we translate those priorities into algorithmic solutions”.

The National Institute of Health and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation support much of the work being done and have sparked a wave of excitement around the artificial pancreas. On the longer horizon, there is the hope that a cure for type 1 diabetes will some day be found. In the meantime, however, the artificial pancreas shows great promise in quality of life improvement on a much shorter horizon.

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