Making sense of diabetes (it’s tough!)

John Sjolund
Sep 13 · 6 min read

In September of 2010, I left an exciting career in digital marketing with specialist digital marketing consultancy Acceleration eMarketing to go on a wild ride — that of MedTech Entrepreneur. What ensued were nine fantastic years where I would invent products, be challenged to work in a regulated industry, learn about complex electronic mechanical systems and, most recently — some crazy chemistry. All in the name of trying to do my part to help people that live with chronic disease, and especially diabetes.

Back then I had no idea what I was getting into — yet today I couldn’t be more excited about the chapter I have just started with what believe to be a transformational technology in health, Biolinq.

Biolinq Patch (investigational device and not yet approved by the FDA)

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just before my 4th birthday, life with diabetes never defined me. Yet it was always something that I needed to take care of. Thanks to the amazing support of my parents and family, I was able to take on any challenge I wanted. I played competitive sports, I traveled the globe, I ate weirder and weirder foods — diabetes never limited me from doing anything. However, as life got busier and my diabetes management went on a kind of autopilot I did have a recurring problem remembering if I had administered my insulin dose, or not. To solve this we created Timesulin — a simple yet highly effective medical device that is still being used by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. I am very proud that the company we formed in 2010 still has the original team in place with Ilke de Gouveia leading the charge. This was, after all, a company that started on a hunch, almost by mistake — much as a result of my friend Dr. Paul Madden and Anne Felton emploring me via email to make this product; reminding me that people needed a simple way to avoid taking accidental dangerous double doses of insulin.

With Timesulin in the hands of hundreds of thousands of people, I wasn’t satisfied that we had solved a big-enough problem. In early 2015 I started to read in Wired Magazine about a group of citizen hackers that were breaking into their medical devices to create automated insulin delivery systems. Linking together a continuous glucose monitor, an insulin pump and a predictive algorithm, these systems had the potential to fundamentally change living with diabetes. I was hooked — and despite having newborn twin boys (with colic), I spent most of my awake moments building one of these systems for myself. I have an amazing wife! Thanks to the work of Dana Lewis and her partner Scott Liebrand who created OpenAPS, I was able to build a system for myself to automated insulin delivery. Can you imagine that a person like me limited technical skills was able to solder together PCBS’s and build the system in python? It was an amazing experience — but most importantly, it fundamentally changed my life and put me at a level in which my average blood glucose, called HBA1C, is within the range of somebody that doesn’t have diabetes at all. Amazing.

My Pancrease: Image was taken as I write this that shows the system changing my insulin every 5 minutes based on where it predicts my blood sugar will go.

But, yet again, I wasn’t satisfied — of course, I was thrilled that I got to be one of the first people in the world to use one of these systems, but what about the millions of people on insulin pens that represent 90–95% of the world’s insulin users? To get this life-changing solution in their hands, we needed to create an automated system for pen users. It took about five years of work to put together the sensing technology and concept to do this — but we did. Much thanks to the technical leadership of Brian Whitely on the partnership with Claudio Carboni and Ilke de Gouveia, we as a team created something which I believe to be pretty special. We created a sensing cap that could be incorporated with any insulin pen, to measure key data about when and how often insulin was taken. To make this product a reality, however, we needed a continuous glucose sensor, an algorithm, app developers and a whole lot more than what our little startup could offer or fund itself. Creating a life-changing and a life-sustaining product had risks. So I was beyond thrilled to partner with Bigfoot Biomedical who acquired Timesulin in June of 2017 intending to bring to market a transformative product to help people in insulin injections gain many of the benefits of automated insulin delivery. I moved with my family from Stockholm, Sweden to Silicon Valley in California and was tasked with building this business unit at Bigfoot. The product is still in development — so my lips remain sealed — suffice to say that I believe that the products that are being developed by Bigfoot will fundamentally change how insulin-dependent diabetes is managed globally — and for millions of people living with diabetes. As amazing as the core technology at Bigfoot is — the focus on the user, the usability, on removing the emotional and cognitive burden of diabetes…that is what won me over. The team, led by founders Jeffrey Brewer, Bryan Mazlish and Lane Desborough, and Jon Brilliant are on track to change diabetes forever — and I can’t wait until the products are commercially available so that I can use them myself!

And this brings me to today, September 12th, 2019 and my joining of a new company. After ensuring the product that I helped create was in good hands at Bigfoot, I wanted to get back to an earlier stage of business building and product development — to make decisions through the eyes of the users and ensure that I can have maximum impact on those families affected by chronic disease, even beyond diabetes. I am laser-focused on broadening access to technologies that truly transform and make lives with chronic conditions better and easier.

Biolinq is one of those technologies. Biolinq is a sensing platform unlike anything the world has seen before, starting with the ability to monitor glucose fluctuations, but different in almost every way from the products that already exist from Dexcom or Abbott. It senses in the dermis and not deep down inside like existing products.

  • Pain-Free
  • Extremely accurate
  • No lag time in reading blood glucose like existing sensors
  • Worn anywhere
  • Measure other analytes on the same sensor
  • Applied similar to a bandaid
  • Extremely small
  • Build on a foundation of data science and predictive analytics — some call it artificial intelligence

If you don’t wear a sensor every day of your life this may not sound like magic, but for the millions of us that wear these sensors to help us make better decisions about our diabetes, the technology is pure magic. I am tasked with building a new way of interacting with technology and diabetes. Contextual, smarter, more automated — to free up brain space and let you focus on things other than your diabetes.

We want to put your diabetes in the background and let technology do the heavy lifting.

By making smarter, smaller, better technology I fundamentally believe that we can make sensors more usable and more likely to be used by more people. And this is why I joined Biolinq.

We still have some way before the product is commercially approved and on the market but the Biolinq team and I — based in San Diego — assure you we are doing everything in our power to get this life-changing magic into the hands of people with diabetes as quickly as we can.

Want to learn more? Sign up to stay informed via the Biolinq website.

Sense you soon!

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