Biotech & Health

Apple might have a secret team working on glucose sensor technology for diabetes

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Apple has hired a group of biomedical researchers to work on a secret project to monitor diabetic patients using sensors, according to a CNBC report.

An estimated 371 million people have the disease worldwide, and in the last few years, several tech companies have been trying to come up with better solutions to help those afflicted. Virta is a newly launched startup tackling type 2 diabetes that promises to completely cure patients by remotely monitoring behaviors. Livongo Health is another startup in the Bay Area that just raised $52.5 million to launch its blood sugar monitoring product.

Normally, patients monitor their glucose by pricking themselves to get a blood sample, so not having to do that any more would be a real game-changer. One person told CNBC Apple is developing optical sensors that shine a light through the skin to measure glucose.

However, others have tried to come up with technology to bypass pricking, and it’s proven tough to do. Alphabet’s life science company Verily has also tried to take on the disease with a smart contact lens that measures blood glucose levels through the eye, but some reports suggest the now three-year-old project isn’t going well.

But Apple’s project has been going on for at least five years, according to the report, and is now to the point where it’s ready to conduct feasibility trials. Apple has also reportedly hired consultants to help it jump through the inevitable regulatory hoops.

The team is said to be made up of Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, and possibly 30 other people — at least a dozen of whom could have come from a frenzy of hires Apple made from the biomedical field, including companies like ZONARE, Vital Connect, Sano and Medtronic.

While we can’t confirm details of the project with Apple (we’ve reached out but have not heard back yet), it would fit well with one of the company’s earlier visions. Steve Jobs believed Apple would one day be at the intersection of technology and biology, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of him. The Apple Watch is already there, counting steps and calories burned, and taking our heart rate and other biological measures. Add on a sensor you can take with you wherever you go and able to detect glucose levels without drawing blood and you’ve officially transformed an entire industry.

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