JDRF and the Artificial Pancreas Project.

A week ago Tuesday was the annual meeting of the Maryland JDRF. I was happy to get out to an actual JDRF event for the first time in a long time. It was a fun event and I got to meet some very nice people.

In addition to the normal business that gets done at the annual meeting (election of board members, officers, etc.), they handed out awards to many who did a fantastic job of organizing teams, raising money, and volunteering for the JDRF walk in Baltimore held back in April. The amazing amount of greatness that results from these grassroots efforts are immeasurable. I’m adding this to my calendar for next year everyone… count me in.

The final part of the evening was well worth waiting for. A member of the staff at the Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine talked about the Artificial Pancreas Project. I had heard the term Artificial Pancreas, and I had read an occasional post or two about it, and I knew that the FDA had approved the AP for outpatient clinical trials, but it wasn’t until this talk (and after catching up by phone with the speaker early this week) that I realized there is still much for me to learn about this fascinating technology.

Now, before you say it, I will: This is not a cure. I get that. And trust me… I want a cure as much as you do. I also have to admit to some skepticism when it comes to wealthy companies that spend a lot of money developing gadgets that can help to keep our conditions chronic, rather than searching for a way to make our conditions history.

That said, there’s no denying the fact that the Artificial Pancreas, or something like it, is something that could have a significant, life-altering (life-affirming?) impact on millions of us living with diabetes. Let me tell you why. I’m not blessed with total recall, but I’ll try to give you what I can from this interesting presentation.

First, a brief description: the Artificial Pancreas is a device that works with your insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to make adjustments in the delivery of insulin throughout the day, based on multiple factors, including: your glucose level and how it’s trending; what you just ate and how you bloused for it; whether you’re heading out to exercise, and more. The primary function is to keep your BGs in a safe range. And more importantly, to keep you out of the danger zones, both high and low.

It’s all done on a mobile device. That’s right… all the technology is loaded onto an Android phone. The device has had the software cleaned, then loaded with the AP platform. Software is loaded to the phone as Android apps.

It’s 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth capable. Per FDA guidelines, it’s outbound only, so you won’t get any text messages or voicemail. Also, no phone or browser, and no third party apps… so you won’t be playing Words with Friends on the runway with this sucker.

Why the WiFi if there’s no browser? That’s where the remote monitoring comes in. It’s a way for a parent, or your endocrinologist, or your spouse to monitor your condition without having to make a million calls (are you listening honey?).
The algorithms developed (and still being worked on) are to account for unique things like exercise and pre-bolus and post-bolus conditions. Other algorithms are still being worked on to cover additional factors, like child versus adult or male versus female physiology. Hey, Your Diabetes May Vary, right?

The folks at UVA have also developed a watch-like device that can be used to monitor the AP device. Think about being on a road trip, and you’re unable to take the effort to check out your AP while driving (whether that would even be legal is yet to be determined). So you look at your wrist, and you can see how you’re doing. It means that potentially, if you’re the parent of a CWD who is out on the soccer field, your son or daughter could have the watch on while you monitor the AP from the sideline. Sweet.

That’s just some of what we learned during this fabulous talk.

So, what about the testing? The folks at UVA are conducting both inpatient and outpatient clinical trials on the Artificial Pancreas. The University of Virginia-developed AP was the first to get FDA approval to conduct outpatient clinical trials. And get this: In the entire testing of the UVA-developed Artificial Pancreas, in testing both in Europe and in the USA, patients have encountered zero nighttime lows. Let me say that again: Zero overnight hypoglycemic events.

And what is JDRF’s role in all of this? Most of you probably know already that JDRF has played an integral role in funding research for the Artificial Pancreas. In addition, JDRF has used its influence as an advocate for type 1s to inform lawmakers and urge them to continue funding research; to pester the FDA to accelerate testing on this game-changing technology; and even help with gathering volunteers for clinical trials on this and other exciting advancements in care and technology.

When someone raises another five dollars in a JDRF walk in Wichita, or participates in the Ride to Cure Diabetes in Death Valley, or includes JDRF in their will in upstate New York, they are helping to make this kind of effort possible. When I was diagnosed back in 1991, I was told how lucky I was that I didn’t develop diabetes a generation earlier. That drugs, technology, and overall care had improved so much. Now, 21 years later, we are on the cusp of another leap forward. JDRF is a huge part of that change in the landscape. Guess what, PWDs? The best is yet to come.

Let me finish by leaving you with a few links:

First, information about the Artificial Pancreas at the Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Check out the staff bios and you’ll be impressed at the creativity and knowledge of everyone working on this project:

Interested in becoming part of clinical trials for the Artificial Pancreas at UVA? Send an e-mail here:

JDRF’s official website devoted to the Artificial Pancreas Project:

You can also sign up via JDRF to participate in active diabetes clinical trials in the USA:

Disclosure: Actually, there is no disclosure. Neither the Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, nor JDRF influenced me in any way in writing this post. I’m a blogger, not a journalist. But I try to get the facts as accurate as possible. If I missed something somewhere, please let me know.

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