More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, with 1.5 million new cases diagnosed every year.
To monitor fluctuating blood glucose levels, Type 1 diabetics have to prick their finger daily. Current solutions remain invasive, painful, and a nuisance.
Arnar Thors learned about diabetes service dogs when he came across a training session in a pet store, where the animals were being trained to alert their owners. The dogs can smell gas patterns produced by organic compounds, undetectable to humans, and identify an impending hypoglycemia attack.
Thors and co-founder Eric Housh found California-based startup AerNos that was developing nanotechnology, gas sensing chips and licensed the technology. The chips are able to detect atmospheric gases at the parts per billion level.
“We could take this breakthrough technology and this proven concept that a dog can use its sense of smell to detect diabetic status to build a non-invasive device,” says Housh.
That idea is at the core of medtech startup AerBetic.
The first consumer product will be a discreet wearable device — similar to an Apple Watch — powered by the aforementioned proprietary gas sensor. It will monitor the user and alert them if blood glucose goes beyond a safe range.
The user does not need to constantly interact with the wearable, as the sensor is set up to continuously monitor.
The wearable connects with AerBetic’s mobile app, which functions as a communication hub. If a user doesn’t have their phone, the wearable still displays visual and haptic cues.
Housh shares that the user can also input blood glucose levels measured with a finger stick into the app, if they aren’t wearing the device. This data is essential for an eventual machine learning component working behind the scenes.
“Over time, we’ll be able to apply machine learning to the manual inputs and the readings from the sensor data to make the sensors not only smarter, but also more finely-tuned to each individual patient,” says Housh.
AerBetic hopes to expand their suite of products to target children with clothing clips, as well as a nightstand sensor — many diabetics’ glucose levels bottom out when they’re asleep.
The Birmingham-based company is currently undergoing beta testing for the wearables, following a presentation at CES 2019.
Beta testing will continue through the end of year with an initial plan to go to market with a direct-to-consumer model in 2020. They will partner with retailers and distributors to reach consumers directly and plan to launch in the U.S., Canada, and Japan first.
The team is currently raising their first funding round to bring on more staff, finalize regulatory requirements, and proceed with the launch. They say they would ideally like to work with Southeast-based investors.
“We want to grow our company in the Southeast. We’ve turned down several opportunities that would require us to relocate the business. We’re looking for funding partners that are not only passionate about addressing this worldwide epidemic, but growing a company here,” says Housh.
“The diabetic community has really embraced what we’re doing,” says Housh.
Featured image courtesy of EDPA