John Steuart is Managing Director at Claremont Creek Ventures, a VC firm in Silicon Valley that invests in information technology and life sciences companies. Their tagline is: "We seek passionate entrepreneurs with disruptive technologies who want to change the world."
We're delighted to have John join us again this year as a judge in the DiabetesMine Design Challenge. In case you missed this morning's bulletin: CONTEST VOTING CLOSES TODAY AT 6pm PST, so take 2 minutes to get your opinion heard now, ay?
A word with John today:
DM) Another year has passed in med-tech. What's the most interesting advancement you've seen this past year, whether in diabetes or not?
JS) Top of the list in exciting advancement in the last year are in the applications of genetics and personalization to healthcare. Just as one size of shoes does not fit all adult feet well, the same drug or therapy does not work equally well for all patients.
We're putting our capital and expertise behind the genetic personalization of healthcare. In March, Claremont Creek led an $11 million investment in AssureRx, a company applying personalized genetic signatures to better dosing and drug selection for psychiatric conditions such as major depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and ADHD. Another fast-growing portfolio company, Gene Security Network, has developed a suite of pre-natal genetic tests to avoid miscarriage, birth defects and inherited genetic disorders by leveraging high-accuracy chromosome evaluation.
Next-generation gene sequencing companies such as Pacific Biosciences, Illumina and Complete Genomics are driving down the costs of applying genomics to personalized care faster than any technology in history. The genetic applications in diabetes care and management have not yet come to fruition, but I expect that new products will emerge to personalize care.
In diabetes, the Artificial Pancreas is making headway, and also things like "smart glucose meters." What can you tell us about those advancements and how soon patients can expect revolutionary new products to be available?
No question, glucose meters will get smarter and better linked to mobile and web-based devices for more personalized approaches to blood sugar control and insulin dosing. Progress is likely to be incremental and slow due to FDA and reimbursement barriers.
An interesting company to watch is Hygieia Inc., which has built a smarter glucose meter for incremental adjustments on insulin dosing based on your personal dietary and glucose measurements over time. It's modeled after a GPS and is called the Diabetes Insulin Guidance System or DIGSâ„¢ device.
The Artificial Pancreas, or "closed-loop" coupling an infusion pump with a continuous glucose monitor are blockbuster potential technologies, but probably a decade or more away from U.S. commercial adoption due to the arduous clinical trials needed to prove safety and efficacy.
Nearer term, continuous glucose monitoring with a functioning life measured in months instead of days is coming.
GlySens, Inc., for example, is working on a wireless implantable system with the goal of accurate continuous glucose measurement that lasts for months.
The semi-finalists for this year's DiabetesMine Design Challenge are now up for open voting (until this evening). What do find exciting about this year's batch of innovations?
This year's semi-finalists show a broad array and diversity of innovations aimed at improving the field of diabetes management. The contestants have invented ways to improve convenience, design, safety and community. Creativity and diversity are the hallmarks of this year's entrants. Picking the winners will not be easy.
How would you describe the criteria that will drive your personal choice for Grand Prize winners?
I'm a venture capitalist who invests in the best technologies, teams and market opportunities. For me, the key question is what opportunity would I (or another VC firm) be most likely to fund? Call it the "would-you-write-a-check" criteria. Of course, Amy and the judging rules will preclude me from using this as the main criteria, but it's my job to bring this perspective, just as our IDEO judge will bring leadership on industrial design to the judging panel.
If a patient advocate is not inclined to be an inventor themselves, but would like to lobby to influence the design of new tools, is there a path for that?
There are many pathways to improving the state of the art in any field. Technical or product innovation is one path. Entrepreneurship allows non-inventors to find the very best inventions and take the risk of commercializing them. Advocacy is another route to influence new product development. The key is to get involved in the way that one can contribute best personally.
Thank you, John. We'd love to see you write some checks this year ;)