Integrity Applications, an Israeli company, has developed a non-invasive method to measure glucose levels in the blood and received the European CE Mark for it. The device is yet to make it to market, but we had the opportunity to speak with Avner Gal, CEO of Integrity Applications, regarding their latest technology and what makes their product unique.
Gaurav Krishnamurthy, Medgadget: What does Integrity Applications do/what is your main offering?
Avner Gal: Integrity Applications has developed the GlucoTrack non-invasive glucose monitoring device. People with diabetes have to keep close tabs on their blood sugar (i.e., glucose) levels, monitoring it several times a day. GlucoTrack is designed to help people with diabetes obtain these blood glucose level measurements without the pain, inconvenience, incremental cost, and difficulty that are presented by conventional (invasive) spot finger stick devices, which all involve drawing blood. Our GlucoTrack Model DF-F is CE Mark approved. It works very easily: A user simply clips the device’s Personal Ear Clip to his or her earlobe, and then waits a minute or so until the result is displayed on the device’s Main Unit to obtain their sugar level reading. This result is also spoken out. The readings are stored in the device as well, so it can calculate the average glucose level over the course of many months. The device itself is about the size and weight of a smartphone, with a large screen that presents history readings in both tabular format and as a graph if desired. It uses three independent technologies: ultrasonic, electromagnetic and thermal, to painlessly obtain blood glucose levels. Additionally, the results can be downloaded from the device via USB cable for future reference and further analysis.
Medgadget: How did you identify the need for this technology?
Avner Gal: About 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, according to the World Health Organization, and this figure is expected to rise to 472 million in 2030. People living with diabetes are inconvenienced every time they need to check their blood glucose levels. They have to get used to the pain of pricking their fingertips to test their blood—in some cases, up to six times a day and more—as well as the expense associated with strips and lancets. Although advice on how to cope with this discomfort has often been presented in an encouraging way, the truth is that the pain is still there. In a perfect world, blood sugar testing would be quick and painless. One of our company’s founders, the late Dr. David Freger, had diabetes, and couldn’t stand the fingertip pricking involved in self-testing his blood glucose level. He suggested founding Integrity Applications and developing the device. Unfortunately, Dr. Freger passed away in December 2004. We have memorialized his name by referring to all of our GlucoTrack potential future models as “DF-[X]“, where the “DF” stands for David Freger. We think he’d be proud of the current device we’ve developed, model DF-F, because it removes the two most significant barriers to frequent monitoring of blood glucose by diabetes patients: pain and cost. GlucoTrack is able to measure blood glucose at any desired times during the day, making it the right solution for a wide range of diabetic patients, including everyone squeamish about drawing their own blood.
Medgadget: Why the earlobe and not another anatomical location?
Avner Gal:The earlobe is a very convenient place on the body to measure one’s blood sugar levels, since doing so doesn’t interfere with one’s activities. From a physiological standpoint, there are also specific benefits to using the earlobe. For example, the earlobe contains a great number of capillary vessels, and blood within it flows relatively slowly. It also contains a relatively small amount of fat and nerves, as well as no bones. All of these facts help to ensure a better reading. In addition, the earlobe is relatively stable in size in adults, which similarly helps to maintain the calibration valid for relatively long period of time. The device also cuts down on costs for the user, as the Personal Ear Clip only needs to be replaced every six months.
Medgadget: How is the GlucoTrack technology better than other methods of glucose monitoring?
Avner Gal: Among the range of noninvasive devices that are currently being developed, to the best of our knowledge GlucoTrack is the only one that utilizes a unique combination of three separate technologies: ultrasonic, electromagnetic and thermal technology as well as multisensors to collect the readings and other relevant parameters, like ambient temperature. Interestingly, one approach that GlucoTrack does not employ is optical technology, which has long been a standard approach to the problem of noninvasive blood glucose monitoring. However, we have found optical technology to be inapplicable for use in a noninvasive glucose monitoring. Optical technology simply has never worked properly as it should for any company that tried that approach, so rather than stick to a“me too” approach, we didn’t go that route. Now, many people who read these words may be wondering how our device can possibly work if it doesn’t work directly with the user’s blood. Since GlucoTrack is truly noninvasive and doesn’t examine the blood directly, what it is actually measuring is a range of physiological phenomena within the body, which are correlated with glucose levels. To ensure that these readings are reliable, the earlobe sensor needs to be replaced and recalibrated on a regular basis throughout the year, but much less frequently than is required by other noninvasive technologies under development.
Medgadget: Where is the device currently available?
Avner Gal: Although GlucoTrack is CE Mark approved for use within the European Union, it is not yet available on the market, since we are still in the preparation phase for large-scale production and distribution. However, we are happy to announce that the device is expected to be available in certain European countries during the first half of 2014.
Medgadget: Can you please talk about the founding team and their background relating to glucose monitoring?
Avner Gal: When founding Integrity Applications we were all “outsiders,” in a sense, but that turned out to be a good thing when it came to brainstorming a fresh approach to the problem of noninvasive blood glucose monitoring. The founders of the company, including myself, have rich background experience in development, management, engineering and operations. I myself am an electrical engineer and a retired commander from the Israeli Navy. In the beginning, we had no experience in the medical field in general, and no experience in glucose monitoring in particular. However, one problem that I and my colleagues excelled at was the development of new measurement applications. Our standard question when faced with any engineering task was, “What do you want us to measure?” We would then brainstorm and innovate a technological solution to measure whatever was required. This spirit of versatility, I believe, played a large role in enabling us to think completely “out of the box” when it came to the problem of noninvasive blood glucose measurement, and to develop the unique concept behind GlucoTrack with no initial bias. In the end, our lack of specific medical background was not a hindrance, but in a way perhaps a benefit that helped us to succeed.