February is of course award season thanks to the Grammys and Oscars, so we figured, why not offer our own take on the "best of" in various categories among the Diabetes Community?
What's unique about our D-Oscars here is that they not only praise work over the past year, but also have an eye to honoring those who are continuously influencing the D-Community in positive ways.
Below are our picks for 2014. And we've updated the post more recently with our 2015 picks at the bottom! No matter the year, each one gets access to our special "virtual D-Oscar" illustrated by the talented T1-peep Brad Slaight. (Those are Blue Circles for diabetes awareness on his head and hands, btw.)
And so, envelopes please...
Diabetes Oscars for 2014
Best Supporting Role: Research Mouse
OK, we know what you're thinking... really?! But yes. The research mouse continues to be a big co-star in cure research, especially with the high-profile role in Dr. Doug Melton's research at Harvard this year, where stem cells were used to generate billions of beta cells. Of course, these mice may have their best days behind them. A new study notes that while mice have been key in diabetes research for 35 years, work with them mostly hasn't translated to success in humans. So maybe it's time to re-think the importance of mice in this kind of science...?
Best Original Diabetes Music: Melissa Lee's D-songs Series
You won't want to miss the musical video creations of D-Advocate Melissa Lee, who not only blogs at SweetlyVoiced but is also the new leader of the Diabetes Hands Foundation! This year she created five fun music videos to help raise money for the awesome DHF that does so much for our D-Community. Those songs include: Treat More Moderately (a Jewel parody), For the First Time in Forever (from Frozen), So High Today (Carole King parody), Normals (Lorde parody), 365 (Dolly Parton's 9-to-5 parody), and I'm Still Here (Elaine Stritch parody). Some great lyrics in there, Mel, and they definitely made us LOL!
We hear there may be even more of Melissa's music in the works, despite her busy schedule as interim executive director of the DHF... so we'll stay tuned!
Best D-Composers: A 3-way Tie!
There was even more great original music emerging from the Diabetes Community this past year. Not all are specifically about D, but these three awesome songs were all performed by a D-peep:
- Fellow type 1 PWD Mollie Singer and her twin sister Jackie and family all make up the country music band, MJ2. Their new "It's Possible" song is an inspirational tune has roots in talking about all we can do even with diabetes, Mollie tells us. And she even shows off her Medtronic insulin pump during the video.
- Type 1 musician Adam Lasher who made it on American Idol (see our interview from January!), but unfortunately was sent home last week. Still, this guy has talent and we totally dig what he's doing. You can find more of his music online here.
- Russell Galloway, a JDRF volunteer in Arizona, created All About the Cure, a fun take on the Meghan Trainor tune "All About That Base" with a diabetes spin -- all in the name of raising some money and awareness for the D-cause. Great tune!
Best Celebrity/Public Display of Diabetes: Sierra Sandison
Who can forget the young woman who wore a Tandem t:slim on her bikini this past summer, while vying to become Miss Idaho and then eventually competing for the Miss America title? Yes, twenty-something T1 PWD Sierra Sandison's success went viral in many ways, putting her on so many mainstream media hubs including NPR, People, TechTimes, E-Online and Huffington Post, not to mention her September appearance on the Dr. Oz Show. Of course, it was her initial tweet using the hashtag #ShowMeYourPump that set off a surge of support from the D-Community and a social media campaign that hundreds, if not thousands, of people proudly took to. All that led to our community helping boost her votes to be named People's Choice for Miss America. Now, with those life-changing moments of 2014 behind her, Sierra is continuing her inspirational role and traveling the country (and world) advocating and raising awareness for diabetes.
Best Diabetes Exec in a Leading Role: Jeffrey Brewer
Not only is he a "type awesome" D-Dad, but Jeffrey Brewer was a pivotal leader of the JDRF for four years who helped usher in a new age for the type 1 research organization and bring an emphasis on both technology and adult PWD involvement. Many in the D-Community loved this guy's leadership, and it was a shock to hear of his sudden departure in mid-2014. But don't worry, Jeffrey is up to great things as always -- he's currently "pursuing Bigfoot" you might say... working with some other big names in the diabetes tech space to co-found a new venture they're now calling Bigfoot Biomedical (formerly SmartLoop). It's focused on new approaches to closed-loop technology for diabetes but is still in the early stages, so Jeffrey and colleagues are tight-lipped about the details. We hope to bring you more on their efforts soon.
Best Documentary Feature and Short: Living Vertical's Project 365
A late entry soars above all others in this category. Project 365 is the tale of a fellow type 1 who puts everything on the line to rock climb every single day for a whole year. The mission: to conquer his own fears and challenges of living with T1D, to empower and inspire others to do the same and not let diabetes stop them from achieving their dreams. Living in Utah, Steve Richert endured 79,000+ feet of climbing, 15+ vertical miles, and 1825 insulin injections over the course of 365 days. The 50-minute video digs into Steve's year-long adventure, some of which his wife Stefanie accompanied him for. It made the film festival rounds in 2014 and debuted at online community Glu early this year. This line stands out from Day 250 when Steve meets up with another type 1 for a climb in British Columbia: "Some people think what we're doing is exceptional... to us, it just feels normal." OK. We love how the ending leaves all of us with this call to action: What will you do with your diabetes? Will it drive your limitations, or drive you to shatter them? That choice is a gift.
Click here to see the Project 365 documentary!
Note that Steve and his wife Stefanie have also founded the non-profit Sweetest Summit org to empower PWDs, in and around Zion National Park in southwest Utah.
Best D-Fashion or Fun Design: Pump Peelz
This one was tough, since there are so many cases, covers, bags and accessories out there for our diabetes gear these days. But it's been fun for the past year or so watching the small biz Pump Peelz grow and expand beyond just diabetes designs. We featured this husband-wife company as part of our Small But Mighty series back in 2013, and it's been great to see them gaining so much momentum. What truly set this nominee apart is coordination with the new Lego movie that came out in 2014, giving D-fans the chance to sport a fun Lego-themed OmniPod or Dexcom cover! Great job mixing it up with the entertainment biz, and we can't wait to see what's next!
Best New Diabetes Med: Afrezza
After years in the making, the Mannkind Corp inhaled insulin Afrezza finally got FDA approval in mid-2014 after Sanofi signed on as the distribution partner for this new med. It's just recently hit the market in pharmacies across the U.S. This has sure been a long time coming, and while not everyone agrees it will succeed or even come close to "blockbuster" status, many are excited about having this as an option for meal-time insulin. It doesn't take the place of all insulin and many will still need to inject or pump basal or long-lasting insulin, but Afrezza brings a new tool that could be a great D-management choice for many in our community. As Dr. Steven Edelman told us: Afrezza leads to less hypoglycemia and "really does work extremely well."
Best Diabetes Collaborations: Data-Sharing Partnerships!
Last year was all about diabetes data coming together, with many industry partnerships signalling a new day for our D-Community in how our devices talk to each other. Palo Alto-based Tidepool is making amazing progress towards a device-agnostic, cloud-based platform for diabetes. They recently received JDRF backing and funding to create a “Universal Device Uploader” -- a simple software tool that patients will be able to download for free, to connect their devices including insulin pumps and CGM (continuous glucose monitors) to Tidepool's open platform. With this tool, we patients will no longer be dependent on the proprietary software paired with these devices.
They’ve also recently announced partnerships with CGM (continuous glucose monitor) company Dexcom, and with three insulin pump companies: Asante Solutions, makers of the Snap pump; Insulet Corp., makers of the OmniPod; and Tandem Diabetes, makers of the t:slim pump. This means these companies will forgo creating their own proprietary software, and support an open-source platform instead!
Best Independent D-Movement: Nightscout and #WeAreNotWaiting
The grassroots initiative Nightscout, aka CGM in the Cloud has also been a huge mover and shaker. It’s essentially a hacked solution allowing any user of the Dexcom G4 CGM to stream the data to show up on pretty much any device, anywhere, in real-time. The CGM in the Cloud group on Facebook passed the 11,000-member mark on Feb. 13, roughly 10 months after first being created! And the larger #WeAreNotWaiting movement has inspired thousands of D-parents and PWDs, and caught the attention of FDA regulators and industry to move forward with accelerating innovation.The core initiators of this solutions recently established an official Nightscout Foundation. It's been so exciting to see how this create-your-own, community-based design resource has helped so many families and PWDs get connected for much improved data viewing and sharing. Nightscout was born in early 2013, but really exploded in use during 2014 and is set to continue growing.
Best New Device Development(s): Dexcom
The California CGM company was definitely the star of 2014, and is already continuing that script for 2015. Dexcom received THREE regulatory approvals this past year -- pediatric designation for its G4 Platinum system, the Dexcom SHARE cradle, and the advanced 505 Software used in Artificial Pancreas research. It's also worth noting that Dexcom also released a thinner transmitter without much fanfare, and finally created a Mac-friendly data platform with its Portrait On the Web. And that's not all! The company recently got a fourth FDA approval in January of the Dexcom SHARE Direct that sets a new standard for mobile health tech, with direct connectivity to iDevices. Combine that with the company plan to submit the future G5 to the FDA in the coming weeks, and Dexcom is certainly the shining star in the diabetes device world right now!
Best Diabetes Advocacy Moment: Flooding the FDA with Our Patient Voices
Many to choose from, like the brand new MasterLab for advocacy training and the #SpareARose campaign that lights up the online community to raise money for life-saving insulin for kids in developing countries. But in the end, when looking at unprecedented moments when we as a D-Community united to have our voice heard, it would have to be... the combined force of our patient voice in penetrating the FDA; we actually crashed the FDA's system, when so many tuned in to the agency's patient dialogue webinar on Nov. 3 (organized by the great team at diaTribe) that the FDA's tech couldn't keep up, and the webcast system went down. That was frustrating, but on the other hand, it was a massive show of force and we made an impression on regulators to be sure. And there was also the incredible wave of comments that came in last year on the glucose meter accuracy guidelines, showing just as much how we care and that we should be heard.
Best in Diabetes: U.S. FDA
Yep, this is what we consider the top award in all things diabetes, as it fundamentally influences our world with D. We've come a very long way as far as the diabetes devices and meds we now have, and how those get approved. The FDA gets top dog recognition, considering how much they've shown they are willing to listen us and help make our lives easier.
FDA has definitely gone from zero to hero in our community, as we noted! They weren't sure about Afrezza, but apparently heard our patient voices and decided to get that new inhaled insulin into our hands to let us decide its utility. As to devices and mobile health, the whole #WeAreNotWaiting movement has helped push FDA into the future, as has the StripSafely campaign on glucose monitor and test strip accuracy. Props to the FDA for making the process more efficient, while giving us the ability to engage and talk to them directly. Can't wait to carry on these conversation, and see how we can help other orgs and agencies follow suit.
And there you have it, our picks for the 2014 standouts...
Diabetes Oscars 2015
Most Innovative Diabetes Startup: Bigfoot Biomedical
Yep, you may remember D-Dad Jefffey Brewer snagged an Oscar for 2014. But we think his leadership at Bigfoot Biomedical is worth recognizing again, and the entire startup is award-worthy. Bigfoot made huge news throughout 2015, from the "story behind Bigfoot Family" being shared to the small startup's relocation to Silicon Valley, and the acquisition of Asante Snap technology that it will use as the base for its closed loop system. Big things are ahead in closed loop, and we're excited to see what Bigfoot has in store!
Best in Diabetes Tech: Dexcom CGM
OK, we know they just got the award in 2014... but seriously, how can anyone not think the California CGM maker should be honored again for 2015? They changed the game in how the FDA looks at mobile apps and medical device data displays (along with the #WeAreNotWaiting community, of course!), launched their G5 Mobile system that talks directly to a smartphone app, and teamed up with Google for future mini CGM tech. Not to mention how they finished up their R&D and clinical work in preparation for filing their next-generation G6 model early in 2016... And it's also worth mentioning that the CGM company's many partnerships materialized into news this past year, with Animas and Tandem both getting Dexcom-integrated devices approved, and data-sharing tools making more progress. Way to go, Dexcom!
Best Supporting Tech: Medtronic
Also deserving a Diabetes Oscar is Medtronic, which also made huge news this past year by teaming up with IBM Watson for cognitive data analytics in future diabetes tech, partnering with Samsung to bring their consumer electronics expertise into the mix, and its renewed push for more mobile-friendly options for PWDs. Not to mention MedT's focus on speeding up clinical research on its next-gen technology here in the U.S.
We are very happy to see MedT stepping up its mobile health game while quickly jumping forward on its hybrid closed loop system in the coming year. We can't wait to see what's coming next.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Alfred E. Mann
We were certainly very sorry to hear the sad news on Feb. 25 that biotech pioneer and billionaire Al Mann had passed away at age 90. This man made a dent in diabetes like no one else in modern history. We can't possibly do him justice here, but many in our D-Community will most likely know his impact from his founding Minimed and eventually selling it to Medtronic in 2000, followed by his relentless pursuit to develop the inhaled insulin Afrezza and get it approved, to hit the market in 2015. We've welcomed all the chats with Mr. Mann in the past over the years, and this tribute by Kelly Close from diaTribe and really speaks to the heart of this man. Many may wonder what happens to his MannKind Corp now, and those questions will have to be answered in due time. But for now, we remember the impact he had on the world. Thanks for all you've done for us, Mr. Mann, and we cannot know anyone more deserving for a Diabetes Lifetime Achievement Award than you, Sir.
Those would be our most recent picks for the past year.
What do you think, D-peeps?