Another week, another part of our startup series! Clear the ring for Diafyt, one of the 13 HealthTech startups that made it into this year’s CODE_n CONTEST final. Thomas Wuttke, founder of Diafyt, wanted to use new technologies and medical knowledge to develop the missing tool simplifying the everyday life of diabetes patients. In our interview, he tells more about the idea behind Diafyt and how exactly the promising smartphone app works.
What is Diafyt all about? How did you come up with the idea?
Thomas: Estimating the optimal amount of insulin at the right time is challenging for people with diabetes. From a control point of view, the main challenges are time delays, constraints, meal disturbances, and nonlinear dynamics. Developing an easy to use and inexpensive way suggesting insulin doses to patients will simplify diabetes therapy for type 1 diabetes.
A minimally invasive system using subcutaneous continuous glucose monitoring and a smartphone app is needed. The tested method is using a stochastic regression method in combination with real-time sensory data and big data analysis.
The software prototype is running on a smartphone where data are collected from continuous BCL metering, a cell phone movement sensor and manual data entry for food intake (e. g. carbohydrates) and insulin doses.
I have diabetes myself and wanted to use the new technology and medical knowledge to develop the missing tool that will simplify diabetics everyday life. I’ve been thinking about Diafyt as early as I can remember – this idea that one day I will be able to live a life as if I did not have diabetes. I am a visionary who will persevere until Diafyt comes to life while making sure it is medically certified and following the highest IT security standards.
“Digital Disruption“ – that’s the motto of this year’s CODE_n CONTEST. What makes your solution innovative, what makes it disruptive?
Thomas: Diafyt takes HealthTech to a brand new level. It changes our relationship with health management by providing a tool that uses the power of Big Data and our phones to compute information our brains are not able to manage. So far, new technology has been used only to monitor our life, like a digital diary of our health. Diafyt is on the verge of a new evolution that looks in the past to anticipate treatment needs. Diafyt is cultivating the idea that technology can be used for something else than leisure or business. It can be used to improve our health management and take away the burden of uncertainty. Take care of what you love, we take care of the rest.
Neither the big players nor research completely understand the problem. It needs the combination of very unique knowledge about diabetes as a chronic disease, the day to day challenges of people with diabetes and mathematic modelling of the human diabetic system. Diafyt is disruptive because it is the first time we will be able to fully automatize diabetes treatment leading to an artificial pancreas.
The trial demonstrated that the system achieves satisfactory glycemia regulation in a type 1 diabetic patient. HbA1c decreased from a pre-test result of 8.3 to 6.8 after 6 months. Simulation tests have shown that the algorithm has the potential to introduce further improvements. The proposed scheme is also robust with respect to false or missing manual data entry and imperfect knowledge of the amount of ingested glucose.
You’re one of the 13 finalists in the HealthTech contest cluster. Which challenges do you think young companies have to face in this sector? How do you handle these challenges?
Thomas: The main challenge that young HealthTech companies face is the difficulty to describe a product or service that does not exist yet. Most of the time, innovators have a conceptual vision of the outcome they want to achieve and they can struggle to translate this vision into a comprehensive model. It is during the creative process, going from an idea to a real product or service that the innovators find out about the specifics of their ideas. Therefore, innovators cannot predict how the final product or service will look like but they can ensure that they will undertake any action that brings them closer to their desired outcome. It can be difficult for external actors to visualize what Diafyt really is when they never experienced it. People are doubtful and scared of things they cannot understand. They may have a hard time with the idea that computers are better than human beings in predicting our needs. Computers can access to thousands of data points and make complex calculation within seconds. Our work at Diafyt is to help people grasp the essence of our innovation by explaining it. We participate to events such as the new.New Festival in order to listen to our audience and get to understand their point of view so that we can improve our communication.
A second challenge that we are facing in Europe, is people’s scepticism. The first question we usually get is: “How do you know that it is safe and works properly?” There is no direct answer to this question. We attempt to explain that we are still in the development and creative phase. We are working on developing Diafyt, which means: we are doing our best to develop a smartphone app that works properly and safe. We are partnering with universities and medical institutions in the development of the app and plan to go through clinical trial and obtain IT security certifications. We want more freedom for diabetic people which induces security and trustworthiness.
On your website it says you’re seeking early adopters as well as endocrinologists. What are the exact requirements if someone wants to take part? And is your solution compatible with any smartphone?
Thomas: Diafyt is a smartphone app that will be connected to an automated insulin pump to deliver the optimal amount of insulin at the right moment during the day.
As a young startup we want to be known as the solution for diabetes management in order to serve as many diabetics as possible. In order to be part of the Diafyt movement you can simply follow us on Twitter visit our website or contact us to be part of Diafyt’s development. We are always looking for engaged people who are willing to share their expertise with Diafyt, e. g. with experience in website development or crowdfunding campaigns. Each person that has something special to offer is someone we want to talk to. We will be delighted to exchange with you and see how we can make Diafyt the changing pivot of diabetes management. If you absolutely want to participate to Diafyt’s development just contact us. There is for sure something you can help us with. Endocrinologists can also get in touch with us if they want to be involved in the evolution of Diafyt.
The requirements are being serious about your engagement, being willing to learn and having the desire to challenge the status quo. We welcome people of all age and background that are specialized or have experience in fields that will help Diafyt grow faster. Just contact us to see how you can help. You can already start talking about Diafyt on Twitter.
Diafyt will run on any Android and iOS smartphone only depending on build-in sensors and operating system support to access these sensors.
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