What it does
Medella Health is building a “Smart Contact Lens Platform” that continuously and non-invasively monitors glucose levels in tear film, and sends the information to a mobile phone so patients can better manage their diabetes.
Medella Health is aiming to disrupt the current diabetes market through the introduction of a seamless, cost-effective way for diabetics to manage their treatment, while bringing innovative health monitoring technology to the market. Currently, measuring blood glucose is invasive. It requires drawing blood or puncturing the skin, which often leads to low compliance rates. By embedding a sensor on a contact lens, it eliminates the need for invasive measures and increases an individual's amount of glucose readings. Additionally, this project aims to prevent new cases of diabetes through the improved collection and interpretation of health data.
How it works
The platform consists of three major components that function together while embedded on a contact lens: the detection module, power module and communication module. First, the power module, or reader, transfers energy wirelessly to the lens via Near Field Communication (NFC). The application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) on the lens then converts this energy into usable working energy to power the biosensor, which performs a potentiometric measurement to detect the amount of glucose present in the tear film. The ASIC converts the data from the sensor into an analog signal, and communicates it back to the reader. When coupled with a mobile device, this analog data can be converted to digital data, usable primarily by patients, but valuable for healthcare providers, diabetes clinics and more. When glucose levels enter the "warning zone", the user will receive a push notification to their mobile phone, so they can take action to improve their health.
From early paper cutouts of antennas to functional long-lasting glucose biosensors, Medella's technology has come a long way. We have divided the milestones for building the smart contact lens are divided into 19 prototypes. To date we have validated wireless power, communication and sensor performance on the discrete level, and determined the architecture of power management module for all future prototypes. We have also validated wireless power between the reader device and a NFC mobile device to enable the development of discontinuous monitoring device with a simple cell phone scan. Multiple iterations of the design have been created to optimize performance, especially for the glucose sensor, using various materials to improve its sensitivity and selectivity. Initially, the enzymatic method was used, but we improved the sensor's lifetime and sensitivity through the use of nanomaterials, each iteration expanding the sensor lifetime to now last 30 days. We have also built a non-functional, but properly designed version of the smart contact lens to provide a visual model for attracting potential investors/users/partners. For this project, we are starting with diabetes management, but in the future can expand to monitoring multiple bio-markers using the smart contact lens.
How it is different
The smart contact lens allows diabetics to actively monitor their condition and eliminates the need to perform invasive, uncomfortable finger pricks to measure glucose levels. Users will no longer have to draw blood to perform a measurement and the continuous nature of the device means that many more readings can be performed on a routine basis. This will better identify trends in glucose level fluctuations and receiving notifications on their mobile application makes it easier for diabetics to take action when their levels are too high or too low. Financially, the device will operate at a lower cost that most commercially available glucometers. It costs a North American diabetic $1,500 - $4,500 a year to monitor their glucose levels. We estimate our cost to be $2500/year, based on a monthly subscription model. In addition to this, we expect further reductions from insurance companies (dependent on coverage).
The next steps to take for this project include encapsulating our discrete device components into a wearable contact lens and obtaining the regulatory approval to get it to market. This includes optimizing the application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), miniaturizing the telemetry system and integrating the different sub-components of the smart contact lens, and completing a user-friendly mobile application. By December 2016, we aim to encapsulate this system into lenses so that by April 2017, we will have built the first wearable smart contact lenses that are ready for the clinical testing required to get the product to market.
Thiel Fellowship, SEB Fellowship, Nicol Entrepreneurship Award, E-Launch Award, Ontario Centres of Excellence Medical Proof-of-Principle and TalentEdge awards, MaRS RASP, Unlock Your Big Idea Pitch Competition for "Best Disruptive Innovation", Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization's Capital Advisory Access Program