We've all heard the rumors about an uncertain future for Tandem Diabetes Care. But the San Diego-based insulin pump company is moving full steam ahead on its closed loop technology plans.
Today, we're privileged to hear from our friend Molly McElwee-Malloy, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator (CDE) who has been living with type 1 for 19 years and working professionally in this field for decades.
At the start of February, Molly chose to join Tandem. She's volunteered to share with us what led up to this new role, and how her research path and her own T1D played into that decision.
On Joining Tandem, by Molly McElwee-Malloy
Dear Diabetes Community:
I was sleeping quite soundly when I woke up startled, I had just slept the whole night without worrying about my diabetes. This, I thought, now THIS is the kind of rest and security I’ve been looking for.
That was my first night on an “Artificial Pancreas” in development back in 2006. It wasn’t the type of modern systems you see now in clinical trials, it was a laptop with an excel sheet giving commands to dose insulin based on CGM values. The “commands” were executed by the physician and noted by the nurse. Everything was “automated” by a person at that time, but I slept like a dream and had really great blood sugars for 24 hours.
It was the first time since diagnosis that I felt secure and rested. I would move any mountain I could to help make this happen for others and myself. I asked the team at the University of Virginia what I needed to do to join them and they said they could use a nurse. So, I went back to school for nursing, was hired after graduation and have been working on closed loop solutions ever since. There was never a question in my mind that I shouldn’t be doing this.
Like most people with diabetes, I experience the regular grief repeating the same experiment over and over and getting different results each time. You can know everything about diabetes and while sometimes you get it right, still other times you get it wrong. This may be the most frustrating part of being an “expert.” There’s enough behavior and stress hormones involved to throw off even the most experienced people. And this is why it is important to study smart algorithms that can be responsive to fluctuations in glucose.
In my time at UVA’s Center for Diabetes Technology, I got to see the first time we put the algorithms on a tablet and a phone, and took them out of the hospital and into the “wild” of everyday life. When I moved to TypeZero Technologies, I got to see the platform redesigned and work out behind the scenes problems to make things smoother for the user.
Now at Tandem, I get to continue clinical trial work, now with the version of the system with the algorithms embedded directly on the pump. I’m involved in the clinical development of all products in the pipeline, from traditional pump therapy to hybrid closed loop projects. I will be working on clinical trials, educational programs for customers as well as healthcare professionals. I am also representing our clinical team in our human factors research and development as well as participating in our mHealth technology development efforts.
I am following the research and ideas I saw in 2006 to into the next phase of clinical trials. I can’t speak about what happens after that, but I can tell you how proud I am to work on developing a system that from the start has been tested, tried and beat up in clinical trials, with the goal of providing a quality system that the diabetes public deserves.
The best part is, I’ve gotten to be a part of it since its infancy, and work with all of the wonderfully talented people who have dedicated their time, energy and experience into getting it this far.
Why did I choose to join Tandem amid rumors that the company is on shaky ground?
Let me start by saying that the speculation and rumors are coming from people outside of Tandem that may not have full insight into what I believe makes Tandem special. Before joining the company, I had the benefit of closely working with Tandem for several years (while I was at TypeZero), so I was already excited about the product pipeline and I was seeing first-hand how the company develops new technology.
So, when the opportunity presented itself, I knew it was right for me. I LOVE technology, I LOVE the ability to deliver updates as they are approved. It wouldn’t make sense for me to work with a company that didn’t have that at the core. So I guess you could say that I’m confident that Tandem has more going for it than others may see on the surface.
Another reason that I chose Tandem is that the company has released 5 products in 5 years, which is far beyond what any competitors have been able to do. I want to be on the cusp of delivering innovation to people with diabetes and coming to Tandem I get to work on the technology I’ve been wedded to my whole life -- from UVA’s Center for Diabetes Technology to TypeZero Technologies to Tandem. I get to follow the pipeline of closed loop technology that I know, love and trust.
My final reason to move to Tandem is the people. Tandem has fantastic and dedicated people who truly care about the customer. It sounds cheesy, but I want to be with a team that wears their heart and commitment on their sleeve.
I’m honored to have joined the team at Tandem Diabetes Care. I am excited by so much that Tandem is doing right now; automated insulin delivery projects are just part of that. Tandem as a whole is working on much more than just pump technology. We’re really focused on systems and services that can provide a real impact for patients and healthcare professionals.
Personally, I look forward to working on technology that can add benefit for patients without greatly increasing the burden of diabetes at the same time. I’m excited to be involved in the human factors research taking place to help make this happen, in addition to my involvement in the clinical trials for Tandem’s exciting pipeline.
Thanks for sharing your story, Molly! And congrats on the new gig!