JDRF Partners With Dexcom to Support the Manufacture of a Smart Transmitter Prototype for Artificial Pancreas Research

Currently, artificial pancreas studies are not conducted in real-life settings: they take place either in a hospital, or out in the real world but with a clinician accompanying the participant at all times. To prepare for real-life outpatient, or ambulatory, studies of artificial pancreas systems, JDRF has partnered with San Diego–based medical company Dexcom to support the manufacture of a smart transmitter prototype—a technology that would reduce the number of wires and bulky devices a person would have to wear with an artificial pancreas system.

The funding of this prototype will allow JDRF to use the technology for research purposes before it will be commercially available.

“The big excitement here is that artificial pancreas studies are projected to go fully ambulatory in the next year or two in the United States,” says Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., assistant vice president of treatment therapies for JDRF. “And so to enable the best ambulatory studies that we can, we need things like the smart transmitter to eliminate the hassle of being encumbered by wires and other bulky equipment.”

The smart transmitter would simplify continuous glucose monitor (CGM) systems. Currently, these systems use a regular transmitter that sends information about blood glucose levels from a tiny glucose sensor inserted under the skin to a pager-like receiver strapped to a belt. Using a sophisticated computer program, the receiver then unwraps this information, generates a glucose number, and then sends that information to a handheld device, which in turn instructs an infusion pump to release the right amount of insulin at the right time.

“In this current system, we have a regular transmitter,” says Dr. Kowalski. “While the transmitter has an important job, it is an extra component that will be eliminated with this new device. The receiver is the brains of the operation. With the smart transmitter, all of the electronics in the receiver—the brains of the operation—are put onto the sensor, creating a smart transmitter.”

The result: the smart transmitter will eliminate the need for the receiver, decreasing the number of devices that a user needs to wear. The smart transmitter will be able to wirelessly send information directly to the handheld device, without being routed through and processed by the receiver.

JDRF will provide Dexcom, Inc. up to $500,000 over 12 months in milestone-based funding to support the development, testing, and manufacturing of the smart transmitter. The goal is that the new transmitter will be able to function with multiple versions of Dexcom’s next generation of CGM systems.

“In order for us to truly achieve real-life outpatient studies of artificial pancreas systems, we need systems that will allow people the freedom and ability to move around, while also providing safety, monitoring, and data collection,” says Dr. Kowalski, “Dexcom’s smart transmitter will allow the sensor to talk directly to multiple artificial pancreas control devices. Now that the first outpatient studies have started in Europe, the development of robust wireless-connection capability is a key step toward accelerating the delivery of an artificial pancreas to all people living with T1D.”