JDRF funds mini insulin pump development at Fayetteville startup

by Jennifer Joyner (JJoyner@nwabj.com) 437 views 

Medical technology company SFC Fluidics has been awarded a matching grant from JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) to fund development of a disposable, miniaturized automated insulin delivery (AID) device.

Under the two-year grant, SFC Fluidics plans to develop a product that integrates two components of an insulin pump – a continuous glucose monitor and insulin delivery system – into a single pod that can be disposed of every three days, according to the company. The product will use patented and patent-pending technology that SFC Fluidics previously developed.

Ashley Shemain, SFC Fluidics’ vice president of marketing and business development, said the significance of JDRF’s work in the realm of diabetes research, in addition to SFC Fluidics’ completion of a rigorous vetting process for the award, made it “a big vote of confidence” for the company’s technology.

“JDRF is pretty much the thought leader in this area, the voice of people with diabetes,” Shemain said. “It shows our tech has the capabilities to do what we say it does.”

JDRF has invested more than $2 billion in research funding since its inception in 1970, according to the organization.

”We are proud to be supporting SFC as part of our effort to advance the development of next-generation automated insulin delivery systems, to offer greater choice to people with Type 1 diabetes, and to lessen the burden of living with this disease while we search for a cure,” Jaime Giraldo, JDRF research program scientist, said in an SFC Fluidics press release. “By funding the development of miniaturized devices that are easier to wear and include algorithms for automation, it is our goal to make diabetes therapies less intrusive for those who must use them daily to live.”

Artificial pancreas device systems – along with glucose modulating agents, prevention of type 1 diabetes and beta cell replacement – are listed on the JDRF website as some of the top research priorities for FY 2018, which ends June 30. One of JDRF’s goals is to reduce the daily burden for people with diabetes while improving their overall health. JDRF launched the Artificial Pancreas Project in 2006 to accelerate the development of commercially available closed-loop systems and has supported several insulin delivery systems that are now used in clinical trials and one that is now on the market.

However, user surveys show the bulkiness of the devices is a problem for users and sometimes a barrier to adoption, according to the press release.

“This factor is especially compounded in children, where skin ‘real estate’ is at a premium.”

More than 6 million Americans have insulin-dependent diabetes, and Shemain said a relatively small percentage of those – fewer than a million – use an insulin pump, which would help keep glucose levels from spiking or plunging. SFC Fluidics said in addition to the creation of an inherently miniaturized device, its technology has the potential to deliver highly accurate does of insulin

“We believe SFC’s unique pumping technology allows for an integrated AID system that will offer people with Type 1 diabetes an improved lifestyle,” Anthony Cruz, CEO of SFC Fluidics, said in a press release. “With our partnership with JDRF, we will bring new and innovative solutions to the diabetes community.”

SFC Fluidics received the grant through JDRF’s Industry Discovery and Development Partnership program, founded in 2004. It establishes partnerships with and provides funding to both pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to accelerate the discovery, development and commercialization of devices and therapies for Type 1 diabetes.

SFC Fluidics leadership hopes the partnership will lead to further work with JDRF. That will depend on successful completion of milestones under the grant. The startup is working on two other projects right now. In August, it announced a $1.5 million Phase II grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop an implantable and wirelessly controlled drug delivery device for small animal research. The Min-ePump system was funded by NIH’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

In September 2016, SFC Fluidics announced a Phase I $225,000 NIH grant to develop a dual-hormone patch pump, with the ability to deliver both insulin and glucagon. Shemain said the company is now applying for Phase II.

SFC Fluidics is based in the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in Fayetteville, though SFC Fluidics’ leadership, including Shemain, Cruz and Greg Lamps, vice president of product realization based out of the Atlanta area. Shemain said most of the engineering and development team, a staff fewer than 10, is in Fayetteville.

SFC Fluidics is a portfolio company of VIC Technology Venture Development in Fayetteville, and CEO Calvin Goforth previously said SFC Fluidics, which has potential implications in a number of health areas, could become a billion-dollar company.

The insulin delivery market is a $9 billion industry, according to the SFC Fluidics website.