Researchers at the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University in the United States have found a way to replace the syringes normally used to administer insulin doses to diabetes sufferers. And nowadays there are plenty of other firms looking at such alternative drug delivery systems.
#NoPricks: this is the slogan that US startup Prometheon Pharma has been tweeting widely since it launched in 2011. At the recent Pioneers Festival held in late May in Vienna, the startup team pitched to an audience who were won over by the hashtag. Prometheon’s big idea is to replace syringes by painless patches to administer vaccines, doses of insulin, contraceptives and other drugs.
Meanwhile researchers from the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University who are working on a similar concept have just developed a ‘smart’ patch for diabetics. The patch is able to sense increases in the wearer’s blood sugar level and will then automatically administer a dose of insulin where necessary. In terms of convenience, this initiative goes beyond the range of innovations available to date to help diabetics. The patch offers not only painless but also automated dosage.
Up to now diabetics have had to test their blood sugar levels and inject insulin several times a day. Now with the Carolina solution, “the whole system can be personalised to account for a diabetic’s weight and sensitivity to insulin,” explains Zhen Gu, PhD, a Professor in the universities’ joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, in an article on the online Newsroom.
The patch provides an alternative to increasingly unpopular syringes. ‟Injections using syringes haven’t changed since 1853. They’ve become ineffective and dangerous,” Devon Grimmé, Director of Business Development at Prometheon Pharma, told the audience at the Pioneers Festival. The starting-point for the Florida-based firm was the observation that syringes have to be sterilised and kept in refrigerators, and that doses have to be administered by trained healthcare personnel who know precisely where to inject. A patch requires far less equipment and could therefore be used far more easily in developing countries. Less radical in their aims, but also looking to make injections easier, three engineering design students in the United States have recently developed a new type of syringe that numbs a patient’s skin prior to an injection and can be manufactured with a 3D printer.
Both the Prometheon technology and the technique developed by Zhen Gu and his team are ready to go, but these patches are still a long way from market launch. The Carolina team are currently working to make their patch even ‘smarter’ so that it can remain effective for several days while Prometheon Pharma needs to find further funding and put their product through all the clinical trial requirements in force in the United States.
‟Injections using syringes haven’t changed since 1853!”
Nevertheless, the founders are confident that production will be easy to set up once the financial and regulatory needs have been met. ‟In terms of development and testing, we're basically raising or awaiting funding right now […]. And that […] will allow us to apply to the FDA for human trials. we anticipate being on the market by 2019 and envisage launching the product at a lower price than current insulin-based therapies,” explains Devon Grimmé. Meanwhile Hoope, a startup on which l’Atelier recently reported, also has similar issues to deal with before it can launch its wearable device designed to replace traditional blood testing for those suffering from Sexually Transmitted Diseases.