Google + Dexcom = High-Tech, Low-Cost Diabetes Devices

A maker of blood glucose monitoring devices, Dexcom, is teaming up with the new Google Life Sciences company to develop bandage-thin continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices. Google Life Sciences is one of the new companies that Google created under its restructured and newly named company, Alphabet.

Google and DexcomCGM devices provide glucose readings continuously, helping people with diabetes track their glucose levels more accurately. Compared to finger prick technology, which provides a single glucose reading, CGM provide up to 288 glucose readings per day, one every five minutes, allowing patients to see whether their glucose is rising, falling or remaining stable. The devices are currently used mostly by people with type 1 diabetes who are taking multiple injections of insulin per day and require close monitoring of their glucose. However, some patients with type 2 diabetes who are on insulin use CGM as well.

As helpful as they are, the current generation of devices is expensive and bulky. “If you look at kids with diabetes and the size of the components, it’s pretty big and takes up a lot of real estate,” says Kevin Sayer, president and chief executive officer of Dexcom. The goal of the partnership is to combine Google’s advancements made in miniaturized electronics to create a small, flexible and disposable device that could be thrown away weekly when the sensor needs to be changed. “Inside that transmitter, there’s a battery, there’s a radio, a processor, an antenna,” says Sayer. “Google has spent a lot of time miniaturizing electronics.” The cost would also go way down. Today, one of Dexcom’s sensors alone costs about $70 to $75 and lasts a week.

The biggest driver of the partnership, says Sayer, is to bring the technology to more people with diabetes. “If you’re a type 2 patient that isn’t on insulin and you take a medication, and we could put a disposable sensor on you a few times a year, that could tell us a lot about how the treatment is managing the diabetes,” he says.

The new products will also provide more data and data analytics to improve treatment for an individual and to inform care across populations. “Google manages big data streams like that better than anyone else,” says Sayer.

Another benefit is that it will improve on the connectivity of the devices. Dexcom lanched the first connective platform that allows users to connect their results to an iPhone app. That way, for example, a parent can monitor the glucose levels of their child, who might be at school or away at camp. Sayer plans to enhance these capabilities even further.

Though Google declined an interview, a spokesperson said in an email, “This collaboration is an example of how the life sciences team at Google is continuing exploring ways that making sensors and electronics small and convenient for everyday life could help people manage disease.” Other areas Google Life Sciences is pursing include the smart contact lens, which can among other things monitor glucose levels,  and the cardiac and activity sensor, a wristband device that can measure vital functions.

Sayer expects Dexcom and Google to come out with a new slimmer CGM within two to three years, but the bandage-sized device won’t be available for about five years.

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