The diabetes tech company welcomed a new CEO, launched its first new product in six years and officially opened its $200 million global headquarters – all in the first half of 2019.
That’s all the result of years of rapid growth for Insulet, chief executive Shacey Petrovic said in a keynote interview at DeviceTalks Boston this month. The company’s customer base has doubled in the last four years to roughly 150,000 ‘Podders’ – the self-selected name for people who use Insulet’s tubeless, wearable insulin delivery device, the Omnipod.
Omnipod Dash, the newest iteration of Insulet’s device, is the company’s latest attempt at making the lives of people living with diabetes simpler, according to Petrovic.
“Something common across all people living with diabetes – and all families because it’s very much a family disease – is the need to reduce burden and to simplify life,” Petrovic told attendees at DeviceTalks Boston 2019.
“It gets down to, fundamentally, who are we innovating for? How are we serving them? We’re really thinking about, how do we just make life easier? How do we take out the friction in these systems?” she added.
The Omnipod Dash, which won 510(k) clearance from the FDA in June last year, wirelessly connects the company’s Personal Diabetes Manager with a waterproof insulin delivery device. Using blood glucose readings, the PDM calculates how much insulin should be delivered. Altogether the system connects via Bluetooth to an app on the user’s phone.
“Our vision is to enable our users to control their Pods via their cellphones. We know it’s the number one request from our users and Dash was step one,” Petrovic said.
“We have a product that is very much chosen by the consumer and as we think about the intersection of consumer technologies, like cellphones, watches, various types of cloud computing, with medical technology we see a tremendous opportunity to make good on our mission by reducing burden. If we could fit these devices into the way that people are living today and the devices that they’re already using today, we see that as tremendously beneficial on a number of fronts,” she added.
The next step in Insulet’s growth plan involves another new product – Omnipod Horizon.
Currently undergoing clinical trials, the Omnipod Horizon uses an algorithm to analyze continuous glucose monitoring data from Dexcom‘s (NSDQ:DXCM) CGM and automate insulin delivery. It’s Insulet’s answer to the call from users for an ‘artificial pancreas’.
Petrovic said she sees the potential in these systems to further reduce the burden for patients.
“If we could do it automatically for them based on their glucose trends, we have the potential to do it more accurately with less human error and certainly less human intervention – and all of this from an app securely controlled on your phone,” she said.
People living with diabetes have been asking for this kind of technology for years. So much so that a group of them have figured out how to hack together their own automated insulin delivery systems using commercial devices.
But Petrovic underscored just how challenging it is to design and test such a sophisticated system.
“We’re adding in a mobile app, we’re adding in a sensor and we’re adding in an algorithm. So, we’re adding in a lot of complexity to the system and we have to keep the user experience simple with all of that happening in the background. That’s hard,” she said.
Petrovic also noted that the company has to design a system that works for everyone, not just tech-savvy users.
“You need it to be simple enough for a two-year-old or for an 80-year-old. But you’re adding all this complexity into the system. That’s when it comes down to good design work, having foundational technologies like Omnipod and the Dexcom sensor, which are very reliable. And it comes down to all the clinical work to refine the algorithm so that it can work across a broad population of patients, effectively and safely,” she said.
Omnipod Horizon, which is slated to launch in 2020, is part of Insulet’s solution to what Petrovic identified as a nascent trend in the diabetes industry: consumer technology. Looking ahead, Petrovic said she sees a future in which more people will be dosing insulin directly from their phones and smartwatches.
“I think you may see the systems become more interoperable. This is a trend that the FDA has been encouraging around patients being able to select components of their system – their preferred insulin delivery system, their preferred sensor, their preferred insulin, and maybe even their preferred algorithm in sort of plug-and-play systems,” Petrovic said.
“And I certainly think that there’s a mandate to make sure that all people have access to more technology to be able to manage their disease,” she added. “It’s one thing to be able to develop a great device, it’s another thing to make sure that it is broadly available. That comes down to cost-effectiveness and working very hard to demonstrate the clinical performance of technologies, as well.”