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Sanofi, Alphabet Create Diabetes Venture

Contact lens with sensors

Prototype contact lens with sensors to detect and measure glucose levels in tears (Alphabet Inc.)

12 September 2016.  Drug maker Sanofi and Verily Life Sciences, a division of Alphabet — parent company of Google — are creating Onduo, a joint venture to develop health management solutions for people with diabetes. Financial and intellectual property terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Onduo, says a Sanofi statement, will develop products and services that help people with type 2 diabetes make better decisions managing their condition and overall health. Diabetes is a chronic disorder where the pancreas does not create enough insulin to process the sugar glucose to flow into the blood stream and cells for energy in the body. In type 2 diabetes, which accounts for some 90 percent of all diabetes cases, the pancreas produces some but not enough insulin, or the body cannot process insulin. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes affects 415 million people worldwide, of which 44 million are in North America.

The venture, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is expected to combine Sanofi’s clinical expertise in producing diabetes drugs with Verily’s work with miniaturized electronics, data analytics, and software. Joshua Riff, named CEO of Onduo, says the venture’s solutions will address day-to-day challenges faced by people with type 2 diabetes. “From monitoring food intake. to testing glucose levels, to actively seeking medical care,” notes Riff, “the challenges both on the physical and mental well-being of a person living with diabetes are incredibly difficult.”

Onduo already signed up two regional health care chains, Sutter Health in Northern California and Allegheny Health Network in western Pennsylvania, to help design and test its offerings for people with diabetes. The venture is also in discussions with the patient advocacy group Taking Control of Your Diabetes as a collaborator.

The collaboration plans to later expand its solutions to people with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition where insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are attacked by the immune system, stopping production of insulin. The work could also expand to include systems or services designed to prevent the onset of diabetes among people at risk of the disease.

Verily Life Sciences, in Mountain View, California, and Sanofi, in Paris, are already partnering on developing medical devices for people with diabetes, beginning with a contact lens using sensors to monitor glucose levels in tears, rather than taking pinprick blood samples. Sanofi also joined an initiative with Duke Clinical Research Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital to harness data analytics and artificial intelligence to improve patient adherence to diabetes medications.

The announcement by Verily of the collaboration with Sanofi follows the launch of a similar venture with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline in August 2016 called Galvani Bioelectronics. As reported in Science & Enterprise, Galvani plans to discover and develop implanted electronic devices that send signals along nerve pathways in the body addressing chronic diseases.

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