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Where are They Now? Checking in on Three Glucose-Monitoring Start-Ups

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Laying out a strategy is one thing; executing it is another. That's why, from time to time, START-UP revisits companies it has written about in the past to find out what went according to plan, and what didn't. As we revisit the field of glucose monitoring--a field with a high attrition rate, we'll see if we can draw out some lessons, both from the successes and from the failures, for those starting out today. (Introduction to three separate articles in the December 2007 issue: "Pelikan Technologies Swoops in on the Big Four"; "A Decade of Development for SMSI: Will It Yield Improved Accuracy in CGM?" and "GlucoLight Makes Non-invasive Glucose Monitoring Real.")

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Sanofi-AgaMatrix Deal a Harbinger

Sanofi-Aventis is allying with AgaMatrix around the latter's blood glucose monitoring technology. The deal gets Sanofi a BGM product line and access to a technology around which it can begin to build an integrated diabetes management system. Importantly, it signals to other companies that it is moving in that direction. That could help Sanofi in partnering or M&A discussions around other aspects of diabetes device development, including continuous glucose monitoring, and also stimulate competitors to pick up the deal-making pace.

Opportunity for Start-Ups in Continuous Glucose Monitoring

It's the end of a dynasty in the traditional market for self blood glucose testing--the test strips and hand-held monitors that patients have been using as the mainstay of their diabetes management. The four major companies, once differentiated players in a high growth market, have cut R&D and marketing budgets in the face of increasing commoditization. But a new era in continuous glucose monitoring has begun, and that sector is poised to grow in coming years, according to "US Markets for Diabetes Management Products," a report published in May 2009 by the Medtech Insight division of Elsevier Business Intelligence.

Freedom Meditech Inc.

In the past, it has been challenging for developers of non-invasive glucose monitoring systems based on optical platforms to separate out the signal generated by glucose from a high level of background "noise." Freedom Meditech, which uses a beam of red light to detect the concentration of glucose in the eye, believes it overcomes this problem and expects to sell its devices directly to consumers and through traditional diabetes product distribution channels. The company is also in the final stages of development with an in-office diabetes screening system that employs similar technology to identify individuals who may have undiagnosed diabetes or pre-diabetes.

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