The numbers are staggering.
The World Health Organization estimates that 346 million people globally live with diabetes. In America alone, the cost of treating the disease was more than $174 billion in 2007, according to the American Diabetes Association.
As such, managing the diabetes epidemic is a global priority. Three Minnesota companies are approaching this pressing problem in three wholly different ways. While two are therapeutic approaches that will involve clinical trials on patients, the third company is focused on proper diabetes training. All three were presenting at a Diabetes Roundtable organized by Minnesota trade association LifeScience Alley Wednesday.
VitalSims believes that correct training is one way to effectively manage diabetes. CEO Chris Duncan said that 35 percent of new diabetics are improperly cared for.
That’s where SimCare Health comes in – it is a s a joint venture between HealthPartners and VitalSims and one of its first products; SimCare Diabetes uses web-based simulation training to train doctors on a variety of issues including insulin initiation and management, ordering diagnostic tests and other things.
The training is modeled on actual patient-physician interaction. Those led to the creation of 18 distinct patient profiles. In tests of the training, it showed an improvement in physicians’ knowledge testing while doctors have found the product invaluable in “insulin initiation and management,” Duncan said.
The technology comes from HealthPartners, a Minnesota-based integrated health system which used a $10 million federal grant to develop the tool. SimCare Diabeters will be commercialized in the next 30 days.
Exsulin doesn’t want to manage diabetes. It wants to turn back the clock on the disease, specifically Type 1 Diabetes that affects children and young adults.
CEO Lisa Jansa explained that the company is developing a drug that will be able to regenerate the cells that used to produce insulin previously.
Jansa acknowledged the funding challenge that Exsulin has had and said that the product would need a total of $100 million to be commercialized. The company will soon conduct a clinical trial in Canada that will use Exsulin’s therapy in combinationcombination with immune modulation therapy in people with Type 1 diabetes.
The basis for Metamodix lies in serendipity, explained co-founder and former St. Jude Medical executive Kedar Belhe.
In the early 1980s a doctor in North Carolina found that the majority of his patients on whom bariatric surgery was done, Type II diabetes was in remission. At first it was thought that since obese patients lost weight, that led to the reversal of their diabetic condition.
But later it was realized that because the bariatric surgery modified the metabolic function, that is what affected the disease.
Using that knowledge, Metamodix has come up with a endoscopically implanted product in the gut. It effectively functions as a liner preventing the absorption of food into the stomach.
A similar approach is being pursued by public firm GI Dynamics, but Belhe contended that GI Dynamics’ sleeve, unlike MetaModix’s needs to be changed annually. MetaModix’s outpatient procedure involves about 30 minutes.