Medical Devices

From inhalable insulin to vaccines: 5 diabetes companies to watch

Dreamboat insulin inhaler by Mannkind Corp.

Dreamboat insulin inhaler by Mannkind Corp.

With an estimated 370 million people expected to have diabetes by 2030the already $41 million market for diabetes management products is set to skyrocket over the next several years.

Fittingly, creating devices, drugs and services aimed at improving the quality of life for these people has been such a sweet spot for startups and big pharmaceutical and medical device companies alike. Out of the hundreds of new products likely to hit the market over the next several years, there are a few especially interesting ones worth keeping an eye on.

Earlier this summer, a type 1 diabetes vaccine generated some buzz  for showing promise in an early study in 80 patients with Type 1 diabetes. It uses modified DNA to turn off specific sections of the immune system that are malfunctioning. Developed at Stanford University, the vaccine was previously developed by Bayhill Therapeutics, which raised $50 million before being squashed by the recession. Tolerion Inc.  is now in control of the vaccine and just completed a Phase 2 study.


Then there’s Pepex Biomedical, which is developing a line of all-in-one blood glucose meters that use biosensors and eliminate the need for testing strips. It’s also working on turning the technology into a cartridge that attaches to a smartphone.

In the area of insulin delivery, Dance Biopharm is working on a second-generation inhaled insulin product. The drug-device combo demonstrated safety in recent Phase 1/2 trials, as reported by the company, and is now being tested in a Phase 2 study. Meanwhile, the Dreamboat inhaler (AFREZZA), a similar product developed by Mannkind Corp., has had its FDA application greeted with two Complete Response Letters from the FDA over the past three years. But this summer it completed a Phase 3 trial, and some analysts are more optimistic about its chances of approval this time around.

Trio glucose meter by Pepex Biomedical

Trio glucose meter by Pepex Biomedical

Another big diabetes player, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Animas Corp., has presented positive data from two feasibility studies of an algorithm that would serve as the foundation of a closed-loop insulin delivery system, or a first-generation “artificial pancreas.”  Based on a listing at, it looks like a Phase 1 study is recruiting type 1 diabetes patients.

What diabetes innovations are on your radar?

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