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Interview Series: Amin Zayani, LBNN 2017 Winner

We are excited to share our interview with our Patient Entrepreneur and 2017 Lyfebulb Novo Nordisk Summit winner, Amin Zayani. As a T1D since 2006, a solar energy engineer by training, and hardware expert by trade, Amin is revolutionizing pharmaceutical care through his creation of Med Angel.

Hi Amin! Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Tunisia, and then moved to Germany for studies. I graduated as a solar energy engineer, and then worked in Berlin for several start-ups. I was lucky to work closely with the founding teams, both in engineering and business roles. I was diagnosed with T1D in 2006, but my diagnosis was not a big deal to me, because my brother has had T1D since age three. Since his diagnosis in 1994, our family had a special relation with carb-counting, insulin, and everything that comes with it.

What drove you to start MedAngel?

I woke up one morning in August 2013 with high blood glucose. And despite injecting many corrections from several insulin pens, it wouldn’t go down. I ended up in ER that day (luckily without major complications).

 I went home with a fresh batch of insulin after a couple of hours, but I was frustrated and determined to understand the cause of the problem.

I traced the cause to my malfunctioning refrigerator, which froze my entire stock of insulin overnight, and then defrosted it again. Unfortunately, the damage was irreversible. I was aware of insulin’s vulnerability to heat, but I never suspected it to be at risk when stored as instructed in my refrigerator. I hacked a simple solution using some electronics I had lying around (a microcontroller, a thermometer and a buzzer) and I showed it around at local meet-ups. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, I quickly understood that this is an overlooked problem that affects millions of people and that there was also a market opportunity. I quit my job, invested all my savings and a loan from the bank, and joined Rockstart Digital Health Accelerator in the Netherlands. MedAngel was born as an easy to use, reliable and affordable solution in early 2017. The solution consists of a wireless Bluetooth temperature sensor that is kept with insulin and communicates with an App on the phone. The App supports all types of insulin on the market in the USA and EU (plus a couple of hundred hormones and biologics), and knows the safe ranges for stored or opened meds and alerts you only when there is a real danger.

Why should people buy MedAngel?

Our mission at MedAngel is to eliminate the uncertainty about insulin’s potency. We believe that no one should ever have an insulin pen in their hand and not know if it is still good to use or not. Many of our users have one sensor with their stock in the refrigerator, and one with the insulin they carry on the go. Many of them started using it for their travels, and we noticed that a majority of users place them in cool bags or Frio pouches in summer (to make sure that the protection works well). To summarise I would say that our solution achieves the following:

1. Bringing peace of mind and reducing some the burden of living with diabetes

2. Ensuring optimal therapeutic outcomes of insulin and other drugs

3. Avoiding financial waste by giving early alarms before it is too late, or avoiding discarding medication because of doubt.

How do you feel about winning the LBNN17 award?Our team is honoured and proud to win this award, especially after competing with such high-level start-ups! We worked very hard to do the pitch, and we wanted to stand out with a unique proposition and story. I have not felt happier in my life! For me personally it feels like a well-deserved recognition after 3 years of non-stop hard work. For us as a team, it is proof that we are doing things right, and that we work well together.

What does this award mean for you and your company?

It is a major milestone for our company! It feels like everything we were doing, everything that was on hold is falling in place! Business leads, investments, projects. We were overwhelmed with the number of emails, calls and inquiries that we received in the next few days: all major pharma companies got in touch with us, people sent us their CVs because they want to work with us, VC funds from Europe and the USA. The validation, exposure and visibility that came with winning the award are priceless. Thanks again to your team and to Novo Nordisk for making it happen.

What is next for MedAngel?

Great things! Big and ambitious plans! We need first to close our fundraising round (which I hope we will announce soon), then we will focus on growing the business and scaling up. We plan on reaching more users worldwide, and keep our high user satisfaction.We are also concentrating on working with a select number of pharmaceutical companies to make their digital transformation happen, and together bring a nicer, richer user experience to all people living with chronic conditions.

 

Where Are They Now? 2016 LBNN Award Finalist: Anna Sjӧberg, CEO and Founder of AnnaPS

This week we caught up with Patient Entrepreneur and 2016 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award finalist, Anna Sjӧberg! (Check out our interview with Anna where she discusses her company, AnnaPS here!) Anna and I got to talking about the award, and the amazing partnerships she has had since! Read on!


Bruna Petrillo: Hi Anna! For those who are not familiar with your company, tell us a little bit about AnnaPS.

Anna Sjӧberg: AnnaPS is a brand that makes clothing with integrated pockets to make it easy to carry all of your diabetes devices. The clothes are made by diabetics for diabetics and have unique functions to carry an insulin pump in the pockets in a safe, discrete and good looking way. The clothes also have specially designed pockets for insulin pen, hand units for Omnipod, CGM (Dexcom), Freestyle Libre, blood sugar meters, etc.

BP:  You were a participant of the 2016 LBNN Award, what was your biggest take-away from the Summit?

AS: The power to meet other diabetes entrepreneurs, learn from the LyfeBulb team, and to get in touch with Novo Nordisk staff and organization.

 

BP: Why do Patient Entrepreneurs matter?

AS: I think we have a driving a force to really make a difference for other patients in the same situation. We can really understand the needs that need to be solved and can test and evaluate in real life.

I think we have a driving force to really make a difference for other patients in the same situation.

BP: What has been your greatest achievement since the LBNN Award?

AS: I think it is our launch on Amazon.com, and our invitation to sell our products on the Lyfebulb Market Place alongside other interesting brand making cool diabetes stuff. And of course I am very proud to have been invited to participate at Fitscript’s Women and Diabetes event in New Haven this year.

BP: What advice would you give to those applying for the 2017 LBNN Award?

AS: Go for it! It was like a dream come through. It was one of the best experiences ever, when I got to represent AnnaPS.

Go for it!

Where Are They Now? 2016 LBNN Award Finalist: John Sjölund, CEO and Co-Founder at Timesulin

In continuing our “Where Are They Now” series where we follow up with the finalists of the 2016 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award, we spoke with John Sjölund, CEO and Co-Founder of Timesulin. Since the award, the biggest news for John is that his business was acquired by Bigfoot Biomedical and he will be joining the team to lead their initiatives to bring a connected insulin pen, with automated dose titration to market. Read on to learn more about the partnership, his opinion on Patient Entrepreneurs, and his piece of advice for those thinking of applying for the 2017 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award.


Bruna Petrillo: Hi John! For those who are not familiar with your company, tell us a little bit about Timesulin.

John Sjölund: We created Timesulin based on my own experiences of living with Type 1 diabetes for over 30 years. Living an active life and traveling, I was constantly struggling to remember if I had taken my insulin, via an insulin pen, or not.

Frustrated at not having any product that could solve my issue ever come to market, together with a friend, we 3D printed our first product. As I started showing it to more people, more wanted one. We had a business on our hands accidentally. The product is not used by hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Timesulin is a replacement cap for the most commonly used insulin pens used today. It has a simple timer in it that tells you when you took your last insulin injection  -helping you to avoid a missed dose OR dangerous double dose.

BP: 3D printing- that’s great! You were a participant of the 2016 LBNN Award, could you tell us what your biggest take-away from the Summit was?

JS: I was amazed at the size of Novo Nordisk – both in terms of the physical size of their production facilities as well as a number of incredible talents engineers they had that participated in the summit. There are a lot of people with diabetes and we know that most of them desperately need help to allow them to live safer, more balanced lives.

Additionally, it was a fantastic opportunity to network with Karin of Lyfebulb and the other participants. The entire group is so passionate, so smart – I was amazed.

BP: Why do Patient Entrepreneurs matter?

JS: Unfortunately, it is very hard for people that are not living with a chronic disease, to understand the huge burden we have all day long to take care of it. It is never ending and relentless.

Being a patient, I believe, provides a unique window into the cognitive challenges of living with the disease and what tools, no matter how simple, can be created to reduce the burden.

BP: Since the LBNN Award, Timesulin has been acquired by Bigfoot Biomedical. Can you tell us a bit about this acquisition?

JS: We are absolutely thrilled to be joining together with the team at Bigfoot to continue to drive towards making diabetes simpler, safer and promoting better life balance. I have never encountered a team that has such a strong personal commitment or vision to dramatically change diabetes for the better.

Bigfoot will be incorporating the Dose Capture technology we have developed into their platform. What this means is we will have a comprehensive solution to dramatically make diabetes easier – through machine learning, automation and smart design, no matter how you decide to take your insulin.

we will have a comprehensive solution to dramatically make diabetes easier…

BP: How do see you the future of this partnership and Timesulin?

JS: As the future of diabetes. Connected products that allow for automated decision support and auto-titration is the final step, I believe, before smart insulins and ultimately a cure.

Patients who want to use closed loop systems (sometimes called artificial pancreas) should be able to leverage the best technology irrespective if they want to use an insulin pump OR an insulin pen. We will allow for this.

BP: What advice would you give to those applying for the 2017 LBNN Award?

JS: Spend time on your application since this is circulated widely before you have the opportunity to present in person.


Learn more about the 2017 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Summit & Award and apply HERE.

 

Where Are They Now? 2016 LBNN Award Winner: Brianna Wolin

As we look forward to the 2017 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Summit & Award, we are also taking some time to reflect back on last year. In our series, ‘Where Are They Now,’ we chat with the finalists of last years award to hear about the importance of the award in the future of diabetes management, and what they have been up to since then.

To kick off the series, we spoke with the winner of the inaugural 2016 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award, Brianna Wolin, CEO and co-founder of Find Your Ditto.


Bruna Petrillo: Hi Brianna! For those who are not familiar with your company, tell us a little bit about Find Your Ditto.

Brianna Wolin: Find Your Ditto is a mobile platform that connects people living with the same chronic illness locally for on-demand, in-person peer support. Individuals living with chronic illness(es) are 2-3x more likely to live with depression comorbidly than the general public; however, in-person peer support has demonstrated strength in combatting the concern. Find Your Ditto serves to mobilize peer support communities for chronic illness patients, ultimately seeking to influence poor self-efficacy and reduce the associated unnecessary healthcare spend annually.

BP: What is the importance of Patient Entrepreneurs?

BW: As I tell people frequently when speaking about my work on Find Your Ditto, Patient Entrepreneurs have a unique, crucial advantage in understanding their target market. We are both designers and users of solutions, situating ourselves at an often un-accessed crossroads where we can make more impressive impact on our own patient communities.

…Patient Entrepreneurs have a unique, crucial advantage in understanding their target market

BP: You were a participant of the 2016 LBNN Award, what was your favorite part, and biggest take-away from the summit?

BW: The summit was an incredible experience. As a near life-long diabetes patient watching the evolution of concerns in the diabetes community— most recently focused on #insulinforall— I was an average insulin consumer believing I was paying the big Novo Nordisk entities huge dollar numbers annually to stay alive without feeling that there was recent innovation in care nor particular concern from the big corporations for their patients. The summit provided me the opportunity to meet the real people behind the life-sustaining drugs I take every day. I learned deeply about their concerns regarding the slow pace of innovation due to the true corporate structure hold-ups and how they do, in fact, feel personally upset with the current state of the diabetes community’s relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. It’s easy to forget the faces and spirits behind our concerns as a community and the summit gave me new perspective about the desire for innovation within pharma.

BP: How did you feel when you found out you were the winner of the award?

BW: As most of the online community has seen, my jaw literally dropped when my name was announced {be sure you see that video clip!} I was surrounded by a cohort of true diabetes innovators and am forever grateful to be considered in their company and to call them close friends in this important field of patient entrepreneurship.

BP: What has been your biggest accomplishment since the LBNN Award?

BW: The Find Your Ditto team has been busy since the LBNN Award! Most notably, we’ve really adjusted our business model and secured healthcare system partners for paid pilots this year. Additionally, I was honored to be in the WiSTEM women-owned business accelerator within the #1 technology incubator in the US, 1871 Chicago.

BP: Tell us how you see the future of Find Your Ditto.

BW: As entrepreneurs, we’re always talking about our visions. My cofounder, Parisa, and I always speak about five years down the line— we imagine a world where no person living with chronic illness ever has to feel alone. We talk about the day where Find Your Ditto is a resource given to all patients from the moment of diagnosis through their chronic illness journey.

BP: What advice would you give to others who are applying for the 2017 LBNN Award?

BW: This year’s award promises to be everything last year’s was and more— complete with VC conversations and even a monetary prize! But, make no mistake— one of the biggest values in this award is being in the company of other diabetes innovators. As a mentor of ours, Ryan Gourley of TechArb, always says:

“just throw your hat in the ring.”

If you are thinking about applying but fear that you’re “not ready” or “not quite the fit”— put an application in! Use every opportunity available to you to get your idea out there. And contact me if you have any questions via LinkedIn or brianna@findyourditto.com.

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