Last week, thousands of healthcare companies and investors therein descended upon San Francisco for the 2011 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Although I wasn't able to attend personally, I've been keeping an eagle eye on what happened there in terms of diabetes through my friend, seasoned industry observer David Kliff of Diabetic Investor — reporting daily on what he calls "the wacky world of diabetes devices."
He's kindly given me permission to summarize some of his thoughts.
First off, Kliff says that two clear themes emerged from the conference this year: the importance of emerging markets (growing middle class in India and China, for example) and the influence Apple is having on the technology front. Woot to the latter!
"It is not an overstatement to say that no other company or product has forever changed the future direction of medical technology. What the iPhone and iPad have proved is that consumers not only want cool technology but easy to use technology that fits into their life and helps make their lives easier." Ya think? This just warms my design-friendly heart.
More specifically, here are some things I learned:
â™¦ Insulet previewed its smaller pod, which won't hit the market until at least 2012. (I have this info and photos directly from the company). It will be approximately 1/3 smaller and 25% lighter than the current pod, but with all the same features. That means a 200-unit reservoir, and 80-hour pod life. The delay to 2012 seems to be entirely an FDA holdup. *sigh*
â™¦ Dexcom and Insulet are still working together to integrate the Dexcom continuous monitoring system with Insulet's OmniPod tubeless insulin pump. But the companies seem to be blaming each other as to why this project is delayed. Kliff reports that Dexcom's CEO Terry Gregg stated in his presentation that "the ball is in Insulet's court." Later that afternoon, he says "Insulet returned the serve... when they noted the reason for the delay is Dexcom's FTC wavier for their transmission frequency, which expires in 2013." Apparently they're not sure whether Dexcom will receive an extension beyond 2013. *sigh again*
Kliff observes that once again, money may be at the root of the issue:
"The simple fact is while an integrated system would help Insulet more effectively compete with Medtronic (which already has an integrated system), this does come at a cost. Simply put, any existing OmniPod patient who decides to use this integrated system would need a new PDM, the device that controls the OmniPod. While Insulet has stated that it's no big deal to swap out the older PDM with the new PDM... it will cost the company money, (which) they appear unwilling to spend at this point."
Here's a question to fellow OmniPod users: wouldn't you be willing to pay a small fee for the new PDM, to get the integrated CGM? I sure would.
â™¦ Meanwhile, OmniPod still has a gi-normous leg up in the patch pump market. Even though pharma giants Roche and Medtronic have both acquired patch pump technology, nobody else seems to be able to get this "next great innovation" off the ground.
"Medtronic continues to change the timeline for their much-hyped and much-delayed patch pump. The latest (estimate) is the first half of their fiscal year 2013," Kliff says.
He adds that Roche has "invested almost $200 million for a patch pump, that still is not on the market, may never actually make it to the market and even if it does make it to market will be so difficult to use it will actually help sell the competition's product." Ouch!
â™¦ Sanofi-Aventis publicly acknowledged that the US launch of the exciting new Apple-integrated BGStar and iBGStar products will be "slightly delayed until the second halfof this year."
â™¦ MannKind's founder Al Mann was still bullish on their new inhaled insulin product Afrezza, although "not as bombastic as in the past," Kliff says. Mann noted that he remains "cautiously optimistic" that the FDA will approve Afrezza -- a much subdued tone compared to his previous public presentations.
â™¦ btw, another new developer of inhaled insulin has emerged by the name of Dance Pharmaceuticals based here San Francisco. The company is run by a former exec from Nektar Therapuetics, and their new product is weirdly based on aerosol technology. I'll be talking with them more intensely very soon.
â™¦ It looks like Intuity Medical, a company that's been developing an all-in-one glucose monitoring system called Pogoâ„¢ for quite some time, has finally "solved the mystery we call the FDA and will soon be submitting ... for approval," Klilff reports.
"Although the Pogo is not a revolutionary device, ... the simple fact is patients with diabetes have too many things to carry around and the Pogo not only makes glucose monitoring simple and easy, but is contained in one nice neat device," he writes. I'd have to agree that it looks attractive — given that patients can get the product and required cartridges reimbursed by insurance (??)
â™¦ After spending three days seeped in all the latest and greatest in drug development and new med device technology, Kliff writes that he "anticipates that 2011 will be a transitional year in the diabetes world; where the old guard will make way for some desperately needed new blood. Companies once thought to be invincible will face some very serious competition from these newcomers and just might not be able to adapt. Stuck in the past and unable to move to the future, the diabetes world could be turned upside down."