The Second Annual Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award


The second Annual Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Summit and Award was a huge success! We just returned from a cold but sunny Copenhagen, Denmark, where 12 of the most innovative thinkers in diabetes management competed in a challenge in front of top Novo, Lyfebulb and other life sciences professionals, engaged with each other and point people at Novo Nordisk, and participated in work-shops and one-on-ones to both learn and teach.

The concept we created three years ago – patient entrepreneurship – has taken off, and what we saw last week was a true reflection of the idea that people living with disease or in close proximity of someone with the disease, can identify and solve for problems that may not be apparent to those with no connection beyond business and science. Diabetes is the first disease we have embarked on, for personal reasons, since I was diagnosed with T1D in 1989 and have been pursuing better solutions for myself and others since.

Our jury this year was strong, including top venture capitalists Shomit Gose (Managing Director ONSET Ventures) and Dr Magnus Persson (Chairman at Galecto BioTech and board professional), as well as leaders in diabetes treatment, Dr John Nolan (Special Advisor to the President at EASD) and Dr Shaukat Sadikot (President at the International Diabetes Foundation) and finally a patient representative, beautiful and smart, Vanessa Pirolo, T1D (board member ADJ Brazil).

In my opinion, it was very difficult to judge the finalists since they ranged widely across consumer products, coding, and medical devices, across genders, age and experience levels, and I found them to fall into three categories:

1: Investable opportunities for pure VCs

2: Partnering opportunities for healthcare companies

3: Community-platforms for awareness and advocacy

The winners, Amin Zayani of MedAngel – making sure the insulin we inject is functional, Linh Le (represented by Malcolm Nason) of Bonbouton – detecting foot ulcers before they occur, and Jen Horonjeff of Savvy Coop – connecting patients with companies to solve problems, represent the three categories and we applaud them for their inspiring presentations!

As a company focused on improving the quality of life for people with chronic disease, we see all the finalists as partners in our fight, and hope to work closely with them going forward.

In addition to the top three we have to mention the fabulous and gorgeous OneDrop (led by the ultimate diabadass, Jeff Dachis, digital marketing guru), our NYC friends Matt Loper, Wellth – using behavioral economics to improve outcomes, David Weingard, Fit4D – scaling CDEs and driving toward better glucose management, and close by in Connecticut, Charlie O’Connell, FitScript – making exercise safe for everyone with diabetes. More distant, but equally strong in their passion include French entrepreneur, Laurent Nicolas and DiabNext – simple solutions to monitor glucose and dose insulin through your phone, the highly energetic Australian, Josh Wulf, Magicraft – coding for children with diabetes, Canadian Aaron Horowitz and his Jerry the Bear, Sproutel – making a diabetes diagnosis become a super power for children, Fierce Liz Sacco with her inspiring story about developing a clever solution to clean up the blood post-monitoring with DiabeticDabs, and finally Slovenian Luca Zaponcic, CarbEasy and his smart scale to simplify carb-counting.

We cannot wait to see them all take next steps, raise more funds and further their projects toward success in the market place, since that means that patients all over the world will live a little better with their diabetes!

To investors reading this note – please let us know if you want more information about any of these companies – they are in fund-raising mode and we want them to succeed and you to make money while doing good for people with diabetes.

Finally, thank you Novo Nordisk, our fabulous partner who took a chance on us last year, and has shown such spirit and common Mission in our pursuit toward reducing the burden of diabetes everyday.


LBNN Application Deadline is this Friday!

Greetings from the Nordic Life Science Days!

We are looking for the best patient entrepreneurs within diabetes consumer and medical devices, or healthcare information technology. Apply to be one of the ten finalists who will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark and attend the 2017 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Summit and compete for monetary prizes!

Since applications close this Friday, September 15, we reflect upon the concept of patient entrepreneurship.

These people are exceptional individuals and they inspire others to an extent I have never seen before in the chronic disease community. They may not be climbing mountains, or cycling across the country, but instead, they are solving problems that we all encounter when living with a chronic condition.

Instead of waiting for others to help them as a patient, the patient entrepreneur finds solutions to everyday problems that are not always apparent to the mind of a scientist or business person, and they go out and start a business, build a product, and change the future for themselves and others! This can be done by finding a way to register when and how much insulin was dosed, bringing together people with chronic disease through technology and inventive models to change behavior, improving the look and feel of everyday medical devices, or just making certain items we eat or drink healthier and tastier.

This brings to market better products and it inspires all patients to take charge of their health and be less complacent – be less of a victim and more of a problem solver.

At Lyfebulb we ask people to take charge, to live beyond their disease or condition, and to utilize the patient experience when identifying solutions.

In contrast to organizations who monitor and describe patient experiences (all sensor companies and patient platforms), we offer solvers and solutions.

We inspire people to Live Lyfe – that is why our slogan is

“Turn Your Lyfe On”

Where Are They Now? 2016 LBNNAward Finalist: David Weingard, CEO & Founder at Fit4D

As we get closer to the 2017 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award, we sat down with last years finalist, CEO and founder of Fit4D, David Weingard to get a little insight on last years summit, and why Patient Entrepreneurs matter.

Bruna Petrillo: Tell us a little bit about Fit4D.

David Weingard: I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 36 years old, working at Microsoft and training for an upcoming race. I was overwhelmed and confused about the diagnosis, as I had no family history and was physically fit. My doctor taught me how to use insulin, saw me for another session, and that was it.  After that, I was on my own and needed help.  Then I found Cecilia, a certified diabetes educator (CDE), who compassionately gave me steps to follow to help me become productive again in my personal and professional life. I figured out how to race Ironman triathlons with diabetes and realized that I could accomplish anything if I had the right knowledge, support, and mentality. One day, I was on my way to a race in Idaho, and I thought to myself, this experience I’ve had — if we could scale that personal coaching using tech, we could do something amazing. What if I could bring everyone a Cecilia? That’s where the idea for Fit4D came about.

I realized that I could accomplish anything if I had the right knowledge, support, and mentality.

Our mission is to improve the lives of people with diabetes.  Fit4D uses technology to scale the human touch of a Certified Diabetes Educator with a patient. We provide personalized diabetes coaching services through our network of Certified Diabetes Educators, and we’re able to scale our coaching to reach large populations of diabetes patients by leveraging everyday technology. This ultimately leads to improved health outcomes.

Unfortunately, many patients don’t have access to CDEs and remain overwhelmed by the 24/7 chronic disease.  Fit4D works with payers and pharmaceutical companies to provide patients with personalized one-on-one support from an expert CDE.

BP: You were a finalist for the 2016 LBNN Award, what was your biggest takeaway from the Summit?

DW: I loved learning from other patient entrepreneurs. We have so much in common, but still have unique perspectives and different aspects of the disease that we’re focused on improving. It was great to meet the Novo Nordisk development and product teams and feel their passion for helping people w diabetes.

BP: Why do Patient Entrepreneurs matter?

DW: People who work in the healthcare space are starting to realize the importance of bringing care to patients by understanding their experiences and personalizing support to each individual. Who would know better about the patient experience than patients themselves! Patient Entrepreneurs bring that personal perspective to the table in order to make realistic, empathetic, and most-needed changes. Because we relate to patients’ frustrations by experiencing those same frustrations ourselves, we can identify problems and stay motivated to find solutions that are practical and useful. It’s also inspiring for people with chronic diseases to see what patient entrepreneurs can accomplish and how it’s possible to take control of your health and your life to become successful.

Patient Entrepreneurs bring that personal perspective to the table in order to make realistic, empathetic, and most-needed changes.

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

DW: Fit4D launched with Humana which is opening the door for us to further scale patient volume and patient engagement  with expert support from certified diabetes educators. Our goal is to give everyone in the world that essential support from an expert clinician…we’re on our way to achieving it!

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

This is an award for patient entrepreneurs, so don’t forget to share your patient story and explain how your business uniquely empowers people with diabetes.

Make sure that your solution has market potential – pay attention to the market/buyers you are trying to reach, so that your idea can become a reality in the marketplace.

Where Are They Now? 2016 LBNNAward Finalist: Shantanu Gaur, CSO & Co-Founder of Allurion

We were excited to hear the announcement that Allurion has raised $27M in financing! Allurion’s co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Shantanu Gaur was a finalist in the 2016 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award and is a member of the Lyfebulb Entrepreneur Circle. We caught up with him to discuss the funding, what this means for the future of Allurion, and his advice for Patient Entrepreneurs who are looking to apply to the 2017 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award. Read on!

Bruna Petrillo: For those who are not familiar with your company, tell us a little bit about Allurion.
Shantanu Gaur: Allurion Technologies is dedicated to helping people realize their full potential with innovative, scientifically-validated products. The company’s flagship product, the Elipse Balloon, is a swallowable weight loss device that resides in the stomach, inducing satiety and promoting weight loss. In clinical trials, the Elipse Balloon has led to an average of 33lbs of weight loss over 4 months with no serious adverse events. The Elipse Balloon is the world’s first and only procedure-less gastric balloon: no surgery, endoscopy, or anesthesia is required. The device is available in 10 countries and over 40 leading weight loss centers around the world. Allurion was founded in 2009 by myself and Samuel Levy while we were in our second year at Harvard Medical School. The company is based in Natick, Massachusetts and currently has 35 employees.

BP: You were a participant of the 2016 LBNN Award, what was your biggest takeaway from the Summit?
SG: There is a consumer revolution happening in healthcare systems all around the world. Patients are becoming discerning, empowered consumers and are demanding products that are not only safe and effective but also frictionless and affordable. The Summit highlighted that patients are not just demanding new products: they are taking the initiative to develop and commercialize new products themselves.

BP: Why do Patient Entrepreneurs matter?
SG: The future of healthcare is in the consumer experience. Compelling products are not enough; consumers are depending on compelling experiences. Who best to design the next generation of medical products and experiences than patients themselves?

Who best to design the next generation of medical products and experiences than patients themselves?

BP: Allurion recently announced that it has raised $27M in funding. Can you tell us more about this? What are your future plans for Allurion?
SG: This round of funding was led by our long-time partners at Romulus Capital with participation from IDO Investments, an innovation firm based in Oman and Cogepa Investments, based in France. This funding will be used to expand our commercial presence internationally, scale manufacturing to meet increasing demand, and pursue a clinical trial for U.S. FDA approval. Obesity is a global epidemic, Allurion is a company with a global focus, and we are proud to have assembled a group of investors with a worldwide presence.

This round is more than just a financing milestone. It is a convening of individuals who believe in our vision for the future of weight loss, and in healthcare more broadly. It is the beginning of a new chapter at Allurion composed of growth, scale, and impact. With 2 billion people around the world and two-thirds of the United States either overweight or obese, it represents the start of our journey toward making a dent in the largest unmet medical need in the world and empowering the healthcare consumer of the future

We are not merely participating in this future. We are actively shaping it.

BP: What advice would you give to those applying for the 2017 LBNN Award?
SG: Applying for the LBNN Award offers a time to reflect on how well your business is serving the consumer. No matter what you end up writing in your application ask yourself very transparently, “Am I doing everything I can to serve our patients?”

Where Are They Now? 2016 LBNN Award Finalist: Matt Loper, CEO of Wellth

Matt Loper, CEO of Wellth, is a Patient Entrepreneur and one of ten finalists of the 2016 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award. Read on as he discusses his biggest take-away from the Summit, and his hopes for the future of Wellth.

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

Matt Loper: We help motivate patients to adhere to their medications and care plans.  About half of the patients with chronic diseases don’t take their medications as prescribed.  There are many reasons why patients don’t take their medications, but the most important is a concept from Behavioral Economics called present bias.  Present bias causes us to be primarily motivated by immediate and tangible benefit, whereas the benefits from taking your pills every day often take years to come to fruition.  We help motivate patients by giving them a little financial incentive every day to take their pills and reinforce the behavior until it becomes a habit that sticks.

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

ML: My biggest takeaway was the inspiration of being surrounded by other Patient Entrepreneurs that are so passionate, motivated, and intelligent, devoting their lives to trying to solve big problems in healthcare.   It was a phenomenal group of people and a really great experience.

My biggest takeaway was the inspiration of being surrounded by other Patient Entrepreneurs that are so passionate, motivated, and intelligent…

BP: Why do Patient Entrepreneurs matter?

ML: Patient Entrepreneurs are extremely important since they have lived through the challenges of being a patient or caring for a patient directly.  The way Entrepreneurs create value in the world is by understanding a problem better than anyone else and working tirelessly to fix it.  Patient Entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to have the understanding and passion required for success.

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

ML: We have repeatably produced great results across a diverse set of patient populations ranging from poor and elderly Type 2 Diabetics to post-discharge heart attack patients.  Across five different populations, we are seeing similar results in each and have been able to get 84% of patients to be at least 80% adherent.  Seeing these great results in real world patient populations is very fulfilling.

BP: What are your hopes for the future of Wellth?

ML: We hope to scale up and help as many chronic disease patients as possible achieve longer, happier and healthier lives by helping them with care plan adherence.

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

ML: Clearly, articulate your personal story and how your product solves a big problem.

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.

Beating Diabetes

Diabetes is a tough disease to live with – I know this first hand. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) the summer I was turning 17, and it changed my life. At the time I was a competitive athlete, playing tennis on the Swedish National Team, and an excellent student. Nothing had prepared me for this diagnosis. We did not have diabetes in our family, and I had no friends with the disease. I saw it as a defect and a failure. It became something I would hide from everyone for many years.

Almost twenty years later, I received MD and PhD degrees from the Karolinska Institute, a post doc at Harvard, and worked on Wall street. I had taken a company public on NASDAQ and become a partner at a Venture Capital Fund, but I was really not feeling well. The spring of 2007, 18 years after my diagnosis, my kidneys and eyes were failing, my blood pressure was uncontrollably high and my hemoglobin was so low that I required blood transfusions. What happened? Well, diabetes had slowly but surely destroyed my system, and was on its way to take my life.

This was when I realized that I cannot hide my condition, and that the treatments on the market are not good enough – there must be a better way.

Fast forward 10 years, I had now been the head of Metabolic Strategy at JNJ, had a senior role in the world’s largest diabetes foundation, JDRF, and had run clinical trials in diabetes for a biotech company that I had helped take public. Most importantly, I had gone through two transplants and received a pacemaker. The pacemaker was placed due to repeated fainting episodes that would happen inconveniently, and often risked major injury and even death. Before the pacemaker, my heart would just stop because of diabetes nerve damage and complete body fatigue from all the injuries I had endured. I was also given a kidney from my father that saved my life, and a pancreas transplant from a deceased donor. I finally had a new chance to make life worth living again.

It is 2017. I am a strong, happy and very determined woman; but I am far from done. My company, Lyfebulb, is here to make a difference and I will not give up until we have accomplished our goals.

Diabetes is not a lifestyle disease.

It is a disease that slowly but surely kills, cripples and debilitates. I wish it were cured and abolished from our planet but in the meantime we need to address it much more aggressively.

Our current landscape of companies is driven by a few very large ones that have provided patients with the life-saving drug, insulin, since its discovery in 1921. These companies, namely US-based Eli Lilly, Danish Novo Nordisk and French/German Sanofi, are enormously dedicated to diabetes, patients and to research. The developments over the years included using insulin used derived from pigs and cows that was modified by the addition of zinc in the 60s to influence the absorption of insulin. Then, in 1977 Herbert Boyer of Genentech developed the first engineered insulin, so-called “human insulin”, and in 1982, Eli Lilly did a deal with Genentech and started selling Humulin. Insulin analogs were introduced in 1996 and 2001, which triggered higher pricing for the products, although marginal improvements in diabetes measurements such as long-term glucose control (HbA1c) were achieved. The price of insulin rose by a multiple of 25 from the 70’s to 1996, and in 2001 the price increase had risen to 35 times that of bovine insulin. At this point, Lilly owned the US market with an 85% share, and Novo Nordisk was mostly successful in Europe. What happened in the past 10 years is remarkable. The insulin market has tripled, currently being in excess of $30B, from $7B in 2006, and predicted to approach $45B in 2021.  The insulin market is currently one of the largest therapeutic markets in the pharma world, and before its patent expiry, Lantus (Sanofi) was among the  World’s 5 largest drugs by revenue and clearly by profit. Even after generic entry, Lantus is among the top 10 at almost $8B sales.

So have we beaten diabetes in those years? No.

Being diagnosed with T1D is no longer a death sentence, but we are far from done. Despite having the best doctors, education and access to care, I struggled with control and eventually suffered from microvascular complications clearly driven by diabetes. Insulin, for me, was not enough and I am not alone. Diabetes is still the most common cause for blindness, kidney failure and amputations in the developed world, and increases the risk for heart attacks and stroke by about 4 times. It also leads to depression, cognitive dysfunction, impotence, dental disorders and various other issues. It truly attacks every cell in the body and accelerates the aging process.

What is happening in the innovative landscape, such as academia and small companies, is not reflective of the severity of the disease.

While we are seeing major influx of capital and talent into important areas such as cancer, immunology, and infectious disease, we are not seeing the same in diabetes. The average endocrinologist is above 60 years of age. Young scientists are not lining up to do research in diabetes, and funding into disease organizations for diabetes is going down as evidenced by JDRF research funding. In fact, 2015 revenues were down by $84M from 2008 and $26M from 2014 (http://thejdca.org/jdrf-financials/).

The for profit side is not much better. Venture capital is not going toward diabetes, and the new IPOs are not diabetes companies. An analysis done by BIO, showed that of all private financing only 5.7% went to metabolism, while 24.2% went to oncology. Only 5.3% of IPOs were in the metabolism field, while 22.8% were oncology related (https://www.bio.org/articles/emerging-therapeutic-company-investment-and-deal-trends). In the established company’s deal-making allocations, metabolism did even worse, with 3% of all licensing and M&A deals being in metabolism, while 26% went to oncology and 28% to infectious disease.

There are some great examples of success in our space where risk takers have made money and delivered new therapies and devices to market that have made a differences. We applaud investors in, for example, Dexcom (Don Lucas) and Animas (HLM management), companies that brought us continuous glucose monitoring and consumer-friendly insulin pumps.

Currently, we believe in the future for several companies, for example the ten finalists in the Lyfebulb Novo Nordisk Innovation 2016 Award competition including marketing veteran, Jeff Dachis’s OneDrop, John Sjolund’s Timesulin and newcomer (and winner) Brianna Wolin’s FidYourDitto. http://lyfebulb.com/lyfebulb-innovation-award-at-the-innovation-summit/. Recently, JDRF, announced the launch of their T1D Fund which will aim to invest donated funds into companies and their first bet was on BigFoot, a company run by former JDRF CEO, Jeffrey Brewer.  

What is also interesting when you reflect on the diabetes industry is the lack of smaller, public companies that are willing to place bets on emerging technologies and settle for revenues that are less than blockbuster quantities. There are less than 20 public diabetes companies in the US, with a majority being very large, and at least half of them in devices (http://investsnips.com/list-of-publicly-traded-medical-equipment-and-device-companies-focusing-on-diabetes/).

These kind of numbers do not generate new drugs/diagnostics/devices to help improve the quality of life for people with diabetes. The total number of people with diabetes is growing exponentially. There are 29 million diabetics in the US, 86 million with prediabetes, and a worldwide prevalence of over 400 million. The cost of diabetes in the US is approaching $300B, up from $245B in 2012 (http://www.diabetes.org/advocacy/news-events/cost-of-diabetes.html?gclid=CMPI_KCe4NECFQ6BswodnE4PlQ ). Interestingly, the cost is not driven by the drugs that treat diabetes (12% of total), but by the cost for complications and hospital care.

So what can we do about this relative lack of innovation and disinterest from the medical and investment communities about a disease that is taking lives, crippling people, and causing enormous damage to our economy? In my opinion there is a big need to change our attitude toward diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is not a lifestyle disease that can just be addressed with diet and exercise. Type 1 diabetes is not a disease that can merely be addressed with insulin and better glucose measuring methods. More insulin in type 1 causes more difficulties in regulating sugar and a greater likelihood of complications. Not addressing the underlying problems with type 2 diabetes will never solve the problem of why certain families have both obesity and type 2 diabetes in every generation.

I was wrong when I hid my type 1 diabetes for almost 20 years, and I was wrong when I tried to show that diabetes did not affect me.

Type 1 diabetes does affect the person and we must take it seriously. I know that organizations advocating for diabetes often try to portray success stories of people running fast, jumping high, climbing mountains, and winning trophies, but that is not the norm and those people would be winners with or without diabetes. Before I was diagnosed with diabetes I was the third best tennis player in my country and the top student in my school. I was a competitive person and diabetes did not change that, it actually drove me harder, but my body eventually told me to stop.

We must encourage financial institutions such as venture capitalists and banks to invest more money into companies doing innovative work in the field. We must encourage research in academia, and we must push the large companies that are doing well selling drugs that save our lives. Only with a newfound interest in the area will we see talent moving to diabetes, and only with the clear articulation of an unmet patient need will we see the overall landscape shifting towards addressing the opportunity. Investing in metabolic companies is a target for Lyfebulb and we hope many will join us. It will bring both health and wealth to our constituents.

Together we can beat diabetes.


Lyfebulb Announces the Ten Finalists of the Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award


We are so proud to announce the ten finalists that will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, to compete for the 2016 Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk Innovation Award!!!

We received a ton of great applications from amazing patient entrepreneurs, but were tasked to narrow them down to ten.  We thank everyone that applied and admire the efforts of all patient entrepreneurs out there.

We formally made the announcement of the ten finalists this morning, and love the entrepreneurship, innovation, strength, and dedication they have shown throughout their careers to improve their lives, or the lives of loved ones, living with diabetes.


Diabetic Super Bowl Champion

The most popular sport in America is football. The NFL dominates conversations between friends, family, and co-workers; as everyone enjoys relaxing on Sundays watching one of the games. Since the Super Bowl is right around the corner, I wanted to highlight Kendall Simmons, a former Pittsburg Steeler Super Bowl Champion and type 1 diabetic.

Kendall Simmons must have felt like he had the world in the palm of his hand. He was a 6 foot 3 inch 315 pound lineman coming out of Auburn. After a tremendous collegiate career in the SEC, the Pittsburg Steelers picked in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft. He signed a big fat contract, made it through his first training camp; and in his rookie season, he started fourteen games, another tremendous accomplishment. Just when Simmons was on a life high, things took a turn for the worse. He felt unusually tired, weak, irritable and having to use the bathroom non-stop. Over a two and a half week period, he lost 43 pounds and Simmons was diagnosed with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults (LADA or diabetes type 1.5). Simmons did not want his promising football career to end after just one season in the NFL, so with the help of his endocrinologist, team doctors and coaching staff, Simmons changed his life to manage diabetes. He knew he would have to adjust his diet and be much more meticulous in his daily regiment to keep his career alive.

By the time the first game of the season came (second year in the NFL, first year diabetic), Simmons and his staff had a plan in place to keep him on the field for the Steelers. He would check his blood glucose six to eight times while at the stadium on game day (before the game, between quarters, half time and post-game). Depending upon what his readings were, he would make the necessary adjustments with small snacks if he had hypoglycemia or insulin injections if he had hyperglycemia. Needless to say there were bumps and bruises along the way, but this allowed Simmons to start all sixteen regular games for Pittsburg. Two seasons later Simmons went on to start all twenty regular season and playoff games and lead the Steelers to the championship by defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Simmons continued his career in the NFL until retiring in 2009 with the Buffalo Bills.

Kendall Simmons is an inspirational figure. He is a living example of how when life hits you with adversity, rather than feeling sorry for yourself, you make the best out of the situation. Winning a Super Bowl is the ultimate goal for every football player and Simmons did not let diabetes stop him. He now works with a variety of organizations including the JDRF, Swing 4 Diabetes, and Novo Nordisk to help improve the lives of people with diabetes.


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