Welcome to another "Where Are They Now?" update on a DiabetesMine Design Challenge entrant. This year, we received a paper entry on PicoSulin, a "revolutionary miniature insulin pump with direct Penfill Cartridge loading."
I heard from the Geneva, Switzerland-based company last week that their website is now live, presenting in particular a new patch pump model (OmniPod competitor) they're working on called the PicoPatch.
What's unique about both products is their tiny size and the fact that no syringes or vials are ever needed. Both the PicoSulin "micropump" and the PicoPatch take standard insulin cartridges that fit into any insulin pen and are easily accessible around the world. Their products also use standard triple-A batteries rather than anything fancy that needs to be recharged or specially ordered.
In a long talk with co-founder Thierry Navarro yesterday, I learned some additional details about both of these ultra-mini insulin delivery devices under development. I'll get to that in a moment. Most interesting of all, however, is the approach of Thierry and his 12-person team. This being the first direct-to-consumer product coming out of an otherwise strictly B2B company, they're taking their design challenges direct to consumers as well:
"We think differently from the traditional way of keeping R&D secret. We have perfected our technology, and we're disclosing the benefits. Now we want to try to get feedback from all the over world. We're using a website survey to capture input from Europe, Asia and the US, " Thierry says.
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"We're in open discussions with the big players manufacturing insulin pump technology, but that takes very long. We decided not to wait. We'd like to offer our products to consumers faster, either through a partner or in a direct model like OmniPod or Medingo (will). Our objective is to have the product most appealing for the patient — by gathering the most input from the community of patients."
Now one might argue that the company, Swissinnov Product SARL, is just looking for some free advice. That's certainly true on one level. But don't forget the other side of the argument: haven't we, the patient community, been bitching for years that vendors don't ask us what we want? When was the last time a really big player like Medtronic or J&J Animas publicly disclosed what they were working on and asked how we'd like them to develop it?
Among the things the PicoSulin group are hoping to determine:
- the look and feel of the PDM, or controller unit, for their patch pump. It may be a "dedicated controller" like OmniPod's, or something tied to a cell phone ("Our objective would be to have something you can run on any mobile device — you just need the software, and we have intelligence for that. It's more of an FDA hurdle with that approach," Thierry says.)
- how full-featured this pump should be. They're already creating a Type 1 version including Temp Basals and Carb Conversions, etc., along with a simpler Type 2 version designed for a few set doses a day. But their initial survey feedback seems to be saying: "simplify, simplify, simplify."
- whether the patch pump will be "fully detachable" or not. The advantage of using the penfill cartridge means that you won't have to waste any insulin in case you do detach for a while, but the adhesive/cannula portion that's mounted to your skin is currently not reusable; they're trying to determine how important that is.
- how important "green" concerns are to US users. Apparently in Europe, having recyclable parts is already a consumer must.
- price point: would users be willing to pay for customer support on-demand if the costs of the system itself were significantly lower than other pumps? Since their disposable portion is an "adhesive bed" only, and doesn't contain any batteries, the costs per replacement "patch" will be half the price of OmniPod's, they tell me — so about $15 each. Great news for us! But the company also won't reap as much profit here, to support all the necessary infrastructure. They believe that if their product is simple enough to use, people won't need to call customer support nearly as often, but might be willing to pay for "strategic help" if and when it's required.
In the end, they may end up selling the technology to a major vendor. They know that if they go it on their own, competing in the US pump market will be tough. It's all still up in the air.
If you're interested, you can visit their website, fill out the survey, and tell 'em what you think. To be honest, it's not the best-designed survey tool I've seen; it's a little stiff and limits your answer choices too much. So another option, if you're so inclined, would be to use their contact form to send 'em more detailed feedback.
PicoSulin, What's Unique -
* Direct loading with a pen fill cartridge of 3ml (300U) in ten seconds
* No more handling of insulin or filling needles
* Ultra-precise Dosing:
- A 20 times more precise pump (0.0025U)
Lowest bolus of all existing insulin pumps
- A basal rate of 20 times smaller (0.0025U/h)
Lowest basal of all existing insulin pumps
* A 50% smaller and 40% lighter pump than the Animas 2020
PicoPatch, What's Unique -
* A 20% smaller patch than the OmniPod - wearable patch is only 0.59 inches (15 mm) thick
* Disposables cost half of OmniPod's replacement pods
* Only one disposable plastic element,so more environmentally friendly
* Direct loading with a pen fill cartridge of 3ml (300U) in ten seconds:
- No more handling of insulin or filling needles
- No more insulin loss - when you change the patch, the insulin cartridge can be inserted back into the new patch.