Devices & Diagnostics

GlucoMetrics hopes to win in the blood glucose monitoring melee

Diabetics have a problem, and a Columbus, Ohio-area startup thinks its technology has what it takes to solve it. GlucoMetrics is hoping to commercialize a portable blood glucose meter that has an error rate below 1 percent.

Diabetics have a problem, and a Columbus, Ohio-area startup thinks its technology has what it takes to solve it.

Blood glucose monitoring technology isn’t as accurate as it could be, and that lack of accuracy poses a health risk to diabetics, particularly those suffering from hypoglycemia said Bill Timmons, CEO of GlucoMetrics Inc. The condition can bring fainting or seizures, in serious cases, and occurs when a patient’s blood glucose is too low. It can be brought on by excessive amounts of insulin.

GlucoMetrics is hoping to commercialize a portable blood glucose meter that Timmons said has an error rate below 1 percent. Current industry standards allow the devices to be off by as much as 20 percent.

“It’s a dirty little secret,” Timmons said of the potential inaccuracy of the monitoring technology that’s on the market today. “Scientists who work in the space all know it.” (Timmons is a scientist himself, holding a doctorate in biomedical engineering from Case Western Reserve University. He runs a consulting firm that helps companies looking to reel in government grants.)

One of the keys to the company’s technology is the sensor in its monitor is self-calibrating, meaning it won’t lose accuracy over time, Timmons said.

The Food and Drug Administration is considering calling for a new, higher standard for blood glucose meters, and Timmons wants to be ready for when that happens. He expects the new standard to allow devices to be off by only as much as 5 percent.

Dr. Thomas Murphy, director of MetroHealth System‘s Division of Endocrinology, said he considers the blood glucose meters on the market today to be “pretty good.” However, he’d recommend his patients try a meter developed with new technology if it’s proven to be more accurate and isn’t much more expensive than what’s on the market.

“I wouldn’t expect the difference to be something that would knock my socks off, but it could make for a small but significant improvement in [patients’] overall blood sugar control,” he said.

The challenge for Timmons is that he isn’t the only one pursuing a higher degree of accuracy in blood glucose tests. The FDA devoted a public meeting to the subject of  accuracy earlier this year. Plus, there’s no shortage of companies that already sell blood glucose monitors, and they won’t give up their market share easily.

Further, GlucoMetrics’ device hasn’t yet been tested on humans. Thus far, the company has tested the device only on cow blood, and it “works beautifully,” Timmons said.

“The trouble is there are 20 zillion players out there saying they have an accurate glucose sensor that only works in the lab,” Timmons said. “Investors don’t believe anything anyone says until it’s proven in humans.”

That makes GlucoMetrics’ next key steps pretty obvious: Getting third-party validation of its technology with human subjects, and then finding investor funding to grow the company.

Timmons is hoping to raise about $500,000 to develop a prototype of the device that a blood lab can use to validate GlucoMetrics’ technology. Timmons is hoping to attract funding from a Third Frontier-backed group or one of the state’s networks of angel investors, and said he’s more than willing to move the company to get it.

Photo from flickr user cogdogblog