Fingerstick glucometers are commonly used to monitor glucose levels in people with diabetes. Google and DexCom hope to eventually replace them with their new device.
In addition to being small and low-cost, the new wearable sensor will be disposable and usable by people with all types of diabetes. The device will be connected to The Cloud and provide real-time information.
DexCom state that the aim of the partnership is to develop next-generation continuous glucose monitoring products that will be "substantially smaller and much less expensive than existing technologies."
"This collaboration is another step toward expanding monitoring options and making it easier for people with diabetes to proactively manage their health," states Andrew Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, with 1 in 4 unaware that they are affected by the disorder.
Although a serious disease, diabetes can be managed with appropriate levels of physical activity, diet and medication. As a result, keeping track of personal glucose levels is crucial.
DexCom and Google want to make a device that will eventually become the standard of care for patients with diabetes, eventually replacing the fingerstick glucometer.
In an earnings call last week, Steve Pacelli - DexCom's executive vice president of strategy and product development - described why he thinks the device can be a commercial success:
"You get it to the point where you overcome basically all of the objections that a patient would have to wearing the device - it talks to your phone, it doesn't have to be calibrated, you don't take fingersticks anymore - there really isn't a reason that you couldn't get very significant penetration into the Type 1 market in the US."
The collaboration will look to combine the miniaturized electronics platforms developed by Google with DexCom's "best-in-class sensor technology."
Not the only Google wearable device in development
A bandage-sized glucose monitoring device does not represent Google's first foray into the world of medical devices, however. In June, their life sciences group revealed they had developed a health tracking wristband for measuring heart rhythm, pulse and skin temperature.
Fast facts about diabetes
- Diabetes occurs when insulin production is inadequate or the body's cells do not respond properly to insulin
- Common symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, weight gain and cuts and bruises that do not heal properly
- Approximately 90% of diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes, whereby the body does not produce enough insulin.
"Our intended use is for this to become a medical device that's prescribed to patients or used in clinical trials," Conrad told Bloomberg.
And just last month, Google announced another partnership, this time with pharmaceutical company Novartis, that planned to develop a contact lens capable of monitoring the blood sugar levels of its wearer.
With that project, the prowess of the Google engineers was again played up. "One of the biggest hurdles was miniaturization, and that's one of the biggest benefits that Google X brings," stated Novartis' chief executive Joe Jimenez. "This is a set of engineers that are really doing incredible things with technology."
The glucose-monitoring contact lens is estimated to take a few years to develop, as is the wearable sensor being developed by Google and DexCom.
In a conference call, DexCom estimated that commercialization of the first product of the collaboration will be within the next 2-3 years. They hope that the second product will be available within 5 years.
Medical News Today previously looked at a symposium from the American Diabetes Association's 75th Scientific Sessions. Here, experts took a look at how the lives of people with diabetes have changed over the past 50 years, and what remains to be addressed over the next 50.
While glucose levels were once only trackable by analyzing urine samples, projects such as this one from Google and DexCom indicate that methods for treating and tracking the disorder continue to improve.