Using technology to facilitate healthcare self-management is not a new idea, but as patients become more technologically savvy, devices are becoming more available, and new technologies are emerging. With an aim to revolutionize the traditional diabetes care technology, Cellnovo has come up with an innovative and thoughtful design that makes managing diabetes easier. In an interview with Insights Care, Dr. Julian Shapley, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cellnovo, gave some insightful answers highlighting the advances made by Cellnovo to take diabetes management towards new heights.
What were the primary considerations you kept in mind while establishing Cellnovo?
Our mission is to make life easier for people with diabetes. Thoughtful, innovative design and modern technology can help people with diabetes to take control and live their lives to the fullest. These were the primary considerations behind the conception of our revolutionary insulin pump and they are the beliefs that still drive our day-to-day work.
Tell us something about Cellnovo’s journey to this successful venture.
Before founding Cellnovo, I was very involved in the study of microfluidics and was at NASA. I subsequently founded Starbridge Systems, the pre-cursor to Cellnovo, in 2002, and then
Cellnovo in 2008 in Swansea, Wales. I created this company with the vision that technology can make our lives easier and that those who rely on medical devices should benefit from these technological advances to improve the care they receive and to make their lives easier.
The life today of a typical Type 1 diabetes patient is a relentless daily routine of testing, tracking, calculating and journal keeping. Our vision is that through elegant design and the thoughtful integration of everyday technology into medical systems, we can restore ease of life by providing freedom from the cumbersome, burdensome and obstructive procedures of traditional diabetes management.
We have a multidisciplinary management team lead by Sophie Baratte, our CEO, who is a 20-year veteran of the medical technology sector with a distinguished career in healthcare having held senior positions at Johnson & Johnson, Sorin, CIT and Lifecell. She has extensive experience in bringing innovative technologies to market, and has brought together a team of industry veterans to lead our organisation in its growth and development. Since our initial public offering in 2015, the company is based in Wales and France.
Brief us about your company and the various services that you provide the industries to stand differently.
Cellnovo is an independent medical technology company specialising in diabetes. We are publicly-listed company, since 2015, on the Paris Euronext (CLNV: EN Paris). We have developed and are marketing the first mobile, connected, all-in-one diabetes management system that helps make life easier for patients.
The Cellnovo System is compact, intuitive and entirely connected. It comprises a mobile touchscreen controller with an integrated blood-glucose meter. It is a unique device that allows optimal management of insulin injections whilst ensuring extensive freedom of movement and peace of mind for patients. Thanks to the automatic transmission of data, it also allows the patient’s condition to be continually monitored by family members and healthcare professionals in real time.
Cellnovo is currently participating in several major Artificial Pancreas projects with Diabeloop, TypeZero and Horizon 2020 (PEPPER) to develop automated insulin delivery systems. What are you hearing from doctors and medical groups about Telemedicine adoption?
There seems to be general agreement in the domain regarding the enormous potential of telemedicine to enable better, more efficient care for patients. Cellnovo is leading the charge in this area with its Online Platform, which facilitates the capture and sharing of comprehensive information with clinicians and family members about the patient’s condition via a secure management portal for immediate response and assessment.
Diabetes is the perfect candidate for telemedicine because it is a chronic condition that requires continuous self-management and monitoring on a daily basis.
What type of Telemedicine practice do you most often recommend? Why?
In regards to our System, the obvious answer is the use of Cellnovo Online, our secure, online management portal, for access to key clinical data in real time. From a single online dashboard screen, the clinic has access to the status of all the patients on the system, including current blood sugar, average blood sugar, insulin dosing, hypo frequency and blood testing habits. At a glance, anyone having difficulties can easily be seen for an immediate response, restoring effective control when it’s needed, instead of weeks later during a routine visit.
With a single click, all the data for a patient is analysed and charted to identify trends, patterns and problems. Using the portal, clinics can completely reorganise the way in which patients are managed. Text and email can be used to check on recent events. Clinic visits are focused completely on current and accurate information.
What were the different challenges that you faced in the initial days and the experiences that led you to be successful?
It is important to note the foundation of Cellnovo required not only the creation of an innovative product but also the building of a well-oiled company that could function efficiently and with agility in the highly-regulated environment of medical devices, already dominated by established players.
Key challenges we faced, include:
Business Environment: The challenges of moving from an R&D to a commercial company and all that that entails (Cultural change, a shift of focus from the product to the customer, funding needs, cash flow, etc.)
Team Dynamics: Building a team with core competencies, in sales and marketing, regulatory, manufacturing, engineering, etc., and finding the right partners to build a distribution network.
Regulatory and Clinical Considerations: We are a medical device company so regulatory considerations are important (vigilance, post- market surveillance, etc.) and we dedicate significant time to ensure that our device is safe and effective.
Strategic Partnerships: Commercial network, R&D partners (we are involved in numerous collaborative artificial pancreas projects, for example), and particularly key for us at the moment is the manufacturing and scalability of our product, which requires mass quantities of the consumable element (the insulin cartridge which a patient needs to replace every 3 days.) So, there has been a lot of capital investment and consideration taken into choosing the right partner and the right strategy to scale.
How has Cellnovo contributed to innovative technologies at the current pace?
We have created a very clean freedom to operate with the wax actuator, which is the highly unique pumping mechanism at the heart of our innovative technology. This technology is a key differentiating factor with other insulin pumps and allows superior accuracy and precision in insulin delivery, as recently published in a scientific study comparing the accuracy of our pump to other standard industry pumps in the patch pump family.
Also, we put great emphasis on the user experience that is often less a priority in most medical devices. For example, our insulin pump is a “micro-pump” with very little tubing, which means it can be worn more easily, anywhere on the body, than a traditional tubed pump. Our handset looks, feels, and functions like a mobile device, which is already a familiar interface for all our users. The feedback we have received is that these are the benefits of our system that allow our users to regain freedom in their lives.
Kindly brief us about the unique tactics and solutions that are used in Cellnovo.
Cellnovo stays ahead of the game by taking a system-level view of diabetes management. The Cellnovo System is not only a high-precision insulin delivery device; it also integrates a blood glucose monitor and is connected to an online platform that allows for real-time data management. Moreover, the Cellnovo System is the industry’s first insulin delivery platform to use Bluetooth® Low Energy and AndroidTM. The use of a best-in-class wireless communication technology and a standard mobile operating system further enables interoperability with other e-health platforms, including artificial pancreas projects.
These are the types of differentiating factors that have given Cellnovo the ability to stay as close as possible to cutting- edge technology and ensure we are future-proof.
Kindly brief us about the most satisfactory experience with a client. What kind of game-changing services have you provided them?
Numerous people using our system have shared testimonies about how the Cellnovo System has changed their lives. From being able to enjoy meals again, taking up sports that had not been possible before, or being able to feel more confident about themselves, many of the experiences revolve around the aspects of everyday life that many of us take for granted. One quote from one of our System users sums it up nicely: “The Cellnovo System has made my life so much more flexible. It has made it easier to manage my diabetes. I feel more confident.”
What do you see as the future solution for telemedicine adoption for large medical groups, for small practices; for hospitals and hospital-linked practices?
Telemedicine will help make healthcare systems and services more efficient, allowing for faster, better treatment for a larger number of patients, and making it easier for consultants and healthcare professionals to deliver better care to a greater number of people. In the case of the UK, freeing up resources from the over-burdened National Health Services, by making it more efficient through advanced technology, will benefit society and create benefits for the entire community.
Any valuable tips and suggestions for the budding entrepreneurs
It is important for entrepreneurs to create solutions as opposed to creating products, leave “me-too” products to the large established companies. Love what you are doing and allow others to see this passion, leading by example towards your goal. Find a way to relax that has nothing to do with what you are trying to achieve, having a “mental- fast” allows your mind the space to find difficult to reach solutions.