On Friday, June 5, we hosted our fourth-ever DiabetesMine D-Data ExChange event -– this time in Boston, in conjunction with the first day of the ADA Scientific Sessions happening there.
This event has rapidly grown up from that first gathering of hackers sharing their projects in late 2013, to a packed house of 90+ influencers (standing-room only). In the room were key industry players and FDA, the experts creating standards for diabetes devices, and a virtual who’s-who of the small outfits developing novel platforms and apps for the diabetes world.
Check out the agenda:
We began with a fascinating opening talk on “Diabetes and the Internet of Things” by Sonny Vu, co-founder of AgaMatrix (instrumental in creating iBGStar) and now CEO of Misfit Wearables. He talked a lot about the imperative of compelling design, and reminded us all that “We’re only in the 1.0 era of design of health devices.”
Next up was Jeff Dachis, co-founder and former CEO of Razorfish, the world’s leading global digital marketing solutions company, telling his own story of recent diagnosis with type 1 diabetes and debuting his exciting new Mobile + Big Data platform, One Drop. See our extensive coverage of One Drop here.
Then Andy Balo of Dexcom gave an excellent overview of the regulatory challenges / pathway to getting data solutions and apps approved and Dexcom’s success in that arena. It was great to see him warmly acknowledge that “there is no doubt that the (#WeAreNotWaiting) community has helped push all this through!”
Then on to the main event: an Industry Forum including the following players presenting their take on how their respective companies are handling the burgeoning #WeAreNotWaiting movement and the call for open data sharing:
- Animas - Ramakrishna Venugopalan, Director, Artificial Pancreas Initiative
- Dexcom - Andy Balo, VP Regulatory & Clinical Affairs
- Insulet - Chris Gilbert, VP Marketing
- Roche – Horst Merkle, Director Diabetes Management Solutions
- Tandem - Jim Berkebile, Director of Marketing & New Product Development
- Medtronic – Annette Bruls, VP & GM, Global Diabetes Services & Solutions
Moderator Sheela Hegde of the life sciences consultancy Health Advances did a great job of politely asking the tough questions.
By popular demand, we were also thrilled to pull together an apps panel, moderated by the venerable Adam Brown of Close Concerns, that gathered representatives of all seven of these D-Data powerhouses sitting side-by-side:
- Diabeto – Amir Shaikh, CEO
- DiaSend – Daniel Stjern, Director Business & Product Development
- Glooko – Rick Altinger, CEO
- Livongo – Adnan Asar, CTO
- MySugr – Frank Westermann, CEO
- Telcare – Andy Flanagan, CEO
- Tidepool – Howard Look, CEO
Then Jeffrey Brewer, former CEO of JDRF and now head of the exciting closed loop tech startup Bigfoot Biomedical closed out by giving us a peek into this outfit’s plans. They recently bought up all the assets of Asante Solutions and their Snap pump, and we got the news right there at this event that Bigfoot is moving its whole operation to Silicon Valley, presumably to the 45,000-square-foot space in Milpitas that Asante just abandoned. Wow!
As the host, my take on the day was sort of a stream of consciousness, listening to the interactions and picking up on salient bits in between checking on the caterer, sound system, late arrivals, overflow chairs, etc., etc. In that vein, here are some notes on what stood out to me:
Overheard at the D-Data ExChange
From Sonny Vu:
First off, we don’t need more data, just better use of the data we have. Also, good design starts at a place of empathy. Everyone is trying to be “patient-centered” but we’re not really there yet. Design should induce delight. You can measure the success of any device by asking: “Would you turn around for it if you left it behind and were already on the way to work?”
From the Industry Forum:
The collective message of the industry folk seemed to be: “We’re experts in insulin delivery, not data platforms.” They pointed out that up until just a few years ago, everyone was focused on their core devices, and creating some kind of “data solution” was very much a secondary concern. Now it’s suddenly in the spotlight, especially Bluetooth BLE.
Even Andy Balo of Dexcom admitted his company “was confused at first by all the patient activity around our technology.” He described the challenge by adding that the need for improved data sharing "had been driven by patients, and we’re also trying to figure out what doctors want – we polled them, but found they’re all different.”
There was a big discussion of course on "Who owns the data?" In essence, all on the panel said they agree the patient owns the data, but Roche and Dexcom brought up the nuances of licensing issues. Annette Bruls of Medtronic made a distinction between diagnostic data and real-time data in terms of safety and security, but said, “It’s good for the community to keep us on our toes –- as we’re working on a safe and secure way to close the loop.”
Jim Berkebile of Tandem (also a type 1 who wrote a guest post here recently) said, brilliantly: “Data is like money in the bank. It belongs to you, but you don’t own everything in the bank, and you don’t own the bank.”
Regarding investing in data solutions, Horst Merkle of Roche said their data shows that 96% of their D-devices have never been downloaded. “So do you put your money into the 4% who do?”
Chris Bergstrom, formerly of Welldoc, got up and chided the industry for continually hiring Old School medical device people, and not hiring enough forward-thinking technology experts. “The talent is here,” he said, “Pharma needs to change with the times!”
Horst Merkle of Roche had an honest reply: “It’s true. The industry moves like an elephant and we can’t do it all. We make devices, so it’s good to partner with data providers.” He talked about the need to improve interoperability, the fact that the licensing process is taking too long, and how much a standards framework is needed. As head of the Continua Alliance (a broader initiative toward connected personal health solutions) he pointed out that in August, Roche plans to launch a new BG meter that will be the first product that’s Continua-standards based (about time, IMHO).
But Joe Cafazzo of the Toronto-based Centre for Global eHealth Innovation got up and stated with passion that “Data liberation has not yet begun. Joe's team has been working on draft standards for the diabetes industry for years, yet "the devices are the same as ever – proprietary!" he said. "Why should a company like Glooko have to interface with 30-120 different products? We are all wasting time and money because the data is not flowing freely.”
With all that talk of partnering with solutions like Glooko, there was also some buzz that “Partnerships are the new proprietary” –- a statement that I find rings true and love.
From the Apps Panel:
Somebody noted that the data community is not competitive – that there was a congenial atmosphere and all these players seemed extremely willing to work together to achieve best results
The Diasend rep pointed out how this outfit is now 10 years old, so they’ve been "liberating data" for a decade. "We're practically the dinosaurs in the room!"
The Glooko rep said creating a link between what patients want and what clinicians need in terms of data solutions is also key. Most useful is pattern recognition, like a solutions that could tell you, “20% of your highs are on Tuesdays between 1-4pm.” He also called out the need for a more proactive approach by CMS (Medicare), like that we’ve seen recently from FDA, i.e. we need access to CMS and progressive payers!
The EKG is always held up as an example of standards that doctors need – they can read this data on any device and it’s always in standard format.
Jeffrey Brewer presented with a Wild West theme, with the town marshal being the FDA (as shown on a badge), the banks as payers, and in keeping with the metaphor, Bigfoot is coming into "tame the frontier.”
He talked how, although they are small and new, the potential is huge because things change incredibly quickly in the tech world. Just look at Yahoo, Kodak and Blockbuster – which were all big players at the top of their game who faced to near-nothingness after being overtaken by startups Google, Flickr and Netflix respectively. Good point!
"We aren't doing anything innovative. We are putting all the pieces together, creating an ecosystem," Brewer said.
I’m not sure we’d agree that their work isn’t innovative – because pulling all the pieces together in new ways is in itself an important component of innovation. It’s what we set out to achieve by hosting these D-Data ExChange events.
A huge thank you to all who helped and participated! Check out more observations by participants by following the hashtag #DData15. And see the great Storify compilation of #DData15 tweets put together by Joyce Lee.