Almost two years after getting regulatory OK to sell a new partially-disposable insulin pump in the U.S., a California company has changed the name of its product just before it hits the market in April.

The Asante Pearl will now be known as the Asante Snap, a pretty spot-on name since it’s not only short and snappy (pun intended!) but also accurately describes the design concept of this new “click-and-connect” insulin pump!

Yes, it pops apart into two main pieces: a main controller with screen and buttons, and a disposal body portion that contains a pre-filled cartridge that can be thrown out after the insulin is used up. Created by Asante Solutions based in Sunnyvale, CA, this pump’s quick and easy snap design is aimed at giving us PWDs (people with diabetes) a device that means “less prep time, more lifetime.”

Ready, Snap, Go! (yep, that’s one of their new taglines — which totally reminds me of “Snap Crackle Pop”… but I digress.)

In early January, we chatted with Asante execs about what they’ve been up to since their insulin pump received FDA approval in May 2011. Their pump was the first device to get through the federal agency’s more stringent guidelines for insulin pumps, but since then they’ve been working quietly behind the scenes in preparation of their upcoming mid-2013 launch.

Part of that behind-the-scenes activity has been bringing on new leadership, including former LifeScan marketing director Ken El-Sherif who took over in October as Asante’s VP of marketing. One of the first things El-Sherif did was conduct market research on the Asante Pearl concept, taking in the real world experiences from PWDs who were trial-testing the system. As part of a creative campaign being built in preparation for the pump’s launch, Asante decided to change the device name to the Asante Snap. They trademarked the name in December, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“We had a great name with the Pearl, because that’s what it is… but it didn’t fit our messaging,” El-Sherif said. “We ultimately wanted a message that says the less time people need to spent time messing with the pump, the more time they can focus on living. It’s a snap, so to speak.”

The Snap’s basics are what set it apart from other pumps on the market:

  • The pump body portion attaches and detaches to the non-disposable “brain” of the pump (controller with buttons and screen).
  • The disposal pump body part has its own battery, and can store settings that can then be uploaded to a new controller if need be.
  • The controller also has a small rechargeable battery to store all settings, date and time while detached.
  • Uses a pre-filled 300-unit insulin cartridge that fits into a disposal slot at the back side of the pump. Unfortunately, the Snap only takes a pre-filled Humalog* cartridge now, but the company plans to expand to other insulin like Novolog as soon as possible.
  • The disposable pump body lasts up to 7 days, but the actual number of days of use depend on how much insulin someone takes. Whether it’s a few days or a week, once it’s empty, you just detach the cartridge portion and throw it away before popping in a new one.
  • Priming? No worries. After you insert the cartridge and attach the pump tubing connector, the pump automatically primes for you!
  • The proprietary infusion set with built-in occlusion technology functions like others on the market and needs to be changed every 2 or 3 days. But the connector that goes onto the pump body has an occlusion detection system that is different than other pumps’ offerings because it also measures the flow of insulin into the tube, rather than just the back-pressure on a reservoir.
  • Lightweight: it’s supposedly up to 25% lighter than other pumps on the market.
  • Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Yes, the Snap calculates Insulin on Board (IOB), so it tracks all insulin given — not just the mealtime insulin but also what’s active in your system at any given time.

No, it’s not touchscreen or all Apple-esque like other new diabetes devices out there (read: Dexcom G4 Platinum and Tandem t:slim insulin pump), but the Snap pump does appear to be a pretty slick device with some cool-looking colors and styles. It also has the advantage of being super-quick and easy to change out, as opposed to the t:slim, which requires an incredibly slooooooooooow site change, according to our correspondent Wil Dubois.

*It did strike us as odd that Asante didn’t see the need to work on offering Novolog or Apidra insulins for its system during the years between FDA approval and their upcoming launch. So any potential Snap pumper would be forced to change to Humalog insulin for the foreseeable future.

Almost to Market

To date, Asante has remained quiet about its plans, but last week, El-Sherif gave us a first look at what’s in store for the Asante Snap insulin pump launch this year.

The company is planning a “controlled beta launch” in four key markets on the East Coast first, in April: Baltimore, MD, and the Washington D.C. area; Pittsburgh, PN; Philadelphia and New Jersey; and Boston and New England.

From there, Asante will expand its launch to larger markets across the U.S. sometime this summer, likely by July. El-Sherif said countries outside the U.S. are on a different timetable to follow once the Snap is available throughout the States.

A new marketing campaign is planned to go public in late March, and Asante’s currently working on a new consumer website (you can see it’s a bit under construction — never mind the Alice in Wonderland babble, which will be replaced with real info soon).

First-Ever Drop Detection, etc.

The FDA gave Asante 510(k) clearance in mid-January for some additional improvements to the pump’s interface, navigation and alerts. According to El-Sherif, those were mostly minor tweaks, with the exception of one first-in-the-industry upgrade: adding a drop detector alert, in case you drop the Snap from a height of three or more feet (the FDA only requires passing a 3-foot drop-to-concrete test). An alert lets you know there might be possible damage that could influence the insulin delivery, and so replacing the disposable pump body part might be needed.

Is there software to access device data? Not at this point, El-Sherif says. But Asante isn’t even interested in following suit of other device makers by “creating our own software you have to buy or learn to use separately.” Instead, Asante plans to develop some open device data software, possibly a web-based program that can be accessed from anywhere.

To that we say: Nice move, Asante!

Customer Needs Over Profit (?!)

Exact pricing for the Snap isn’t set yet, but El-Sherif said the expected upfront price for the Snap would be $500-$700, compared to the thousands it might cost for a traditional tubed pump and more in line with the price of an OmniPod starter kit. He said the average insurance plan, based on their market research, shows that a co-pay of 20% would make this an affordable pump option.

Asante plans to offer a 30-day trial period for anyone looking to buy this new pump, he said.

“Look, we know it’s a big risk for somebody to buy a new pump upfront and it costs a lot of money. You can pay a deposit, maybe something like $200, and we’ll let you use the Snap for a month,” he said. “If you don’t like it and don’t want to buy it, then return it and that deposit is fully refundable.”

The company has its eye on CGM-integration for the next-gen focus, but that shouldn’t worry anyone who might be concerned about seeing their 1st gen Snap obsolete before the 4-year warranty expires. Asante has that covered, too, offering a $199 upgrade that doesn’t expire (!) They’re promising no hassle, no questions as to why, no timelines that you have to think about — just a “snap,” as the company marketing points out.

“People want current products — not the older generations that aren’t made anymore, so that’s what we want to give them,” he said. “Our customers can pay that $199 upgrade fee anytime, as often as they might want to.”

The next words out of El-Sherif’s mouth simply stunned me, just because I’m really not used to hearing this from a diabetes device company…

“We are not looking to make money off this 30-day trial or getting people our next-generation technology. We want people to know what they are buying and feel comfortable with it first, and that we appreciate them staying with us.

Whoa…. How about that?! A medical device company looking first to do what’s best for customers, and letting the profits fall where they may. Bravo, Asante!

Now, I haven’t used this pump or held it in my hand. And I’m not quite sure about the whole “Humalog only” aspect of this pump. Some endocrinologists and educators in the U.K. got to trial-test this device last year, and some in the U.S. are doing so now. But from what I’ve seen of the design and heard about their customer policies, I’m eager to try the Snap pump if the chance arises!

What do you think? A penny for your thoughts, existing pumpers?… Ready, Set, Snap!