Friday, July 29, 2005

Students develop concept for prick-free diabetic device

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.07.29
EDITION: Final
SECTION: City
PAGE: F10
BYLINE: Joanne Laucius
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen
ILLUSTRATION: Photo: Ran Wei, left, and Juthika Thakur, both 16, withtheir Shad Valley project -- a concept for a medical device that uses near-infrared spectroscopy to measure glucose levels through the skin without the need to take a blood sample.

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Students develop concept for prick-free diabetic device: Team of 13 high school students wins honours for innovation at Carleton's Shad Valley program

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A group of 13 high school students has developed a concept for a device for diabetics that combines prick-free glucose testing with tailored insulin injections.

The concept, called Diabix, was chosen as the winner of four projects at Carleton University's Shad Valley, a program for top high school students from around the country held every summer at 11 universities across Canada.

More than 8,400 students have gone through the Shad Valley program since it was introduced in 1981, including 16 students who went on to become Rhodes scholars.

The challenge for all the teams across Canada was to develop a business plan for a health and wellness product. The teams, which work as companies, had to come up with the concept, create a business plan, predict costs and do a cash flow analysis.

Carleton's winning team, which calls itself InnoReach, started with a brainstorming session, and contemplated numerous products ranging from volcano rock shower tiles to adjustable-height high heels, said Ran Wei, 16, a member of the team from Toronto.

Juthika Thakur, 16, a student from Mississauga who became InnoReach's CEO, thought about her father, who has diabetes, and the difficulties he has monitoring glucose levels and injecting insulin.

The team suggested using cutting-edge medical technology to make the process of testing and injecting more simple. The members investigated prick-free testing, which uses near-infrared spectroscopy to measure glucose levels through the skin without the need to take a blood sample. Near-infrared is one of several non-invasive currently being assessed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The students proposed coupling a spectroscopy device about the same size as an iPod with a syringe calibrated to administer the amount of insulin required according to the glucose test. Diabix would contain a computer chip so the diabetic patient could keep a record of insulin use, and a doctor could program the device.

Glucose levels can vary widely in the same patient over the course of a day, said Ms. Thakur. The InnoReach device would not only be more convenient and less painful, but would also help improve the patient's chances for long-term health.

"Fluctuations can result in many complications, such as blindness and amputation," said Ms. Thakur.

The team has calculated that it would take $190 to manufacture the product, which would retail for $350 to $400 a unit. The unit would pay for itself -- the patient would no longer have to pay for glucose strips or lancets, she said.

The InnoReach project is now eligible for the Royal Bank Cup, a competition for the winners from each of the 11 sites held late in October in Waterloo and the teams have the next three months to develop their ideas.

The group has already interviewed doctors and diabetics. Mr. Wei says the next step is to contact other professionals to see if their concept is feasible.

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