Fitbit makes $6m play in diabetes tech

Consumer fitness brand Fitbit kicked off 2018 with the news that it has made a $6 million investment in Sano, a company developing a patch for monitoring blood sugar.

Speaking to American news network CNBC, Fitbit CEO James Park confirmed the investment, which is part of a larger funding round for Sano.

Park said: “This fits into our strategy of looking beyond the device and thinking more about (health) solutions. I think the complete solution comes in the form of having some monitoring solution that is coupled with a display, and a wearable that can give you the interventions at the right moment.”

It’s not the first foray into medtech for diabetes care that Fitbit has made. In late 2016 the firm announced a collaboration with medical device giant Medtronic which saw the two companies integrate health and activity data from both Fitbits and continuous glucose monitors into an app which allows patients to see how exercise impacts on glucose levels.

Meanwhile Apple has long been rumoured to be working on similar technology for discreet, non-invasive blood glucose monitoring. In May last year, CEO Tim Cook was seen testing a new wearable device that tracks blood sugar and was connected to his Apple Watch.

And in February 2017, Cook had spoken to students at the University of Glasgow about glucose monitoring, saying: “I’ve been wearing a continuous glucose monitor for a few weeks,” he said. “I just took it off before coming on this trip.”

He continued to discuss the problems diabetic people face everyday in just monitoring their blood levels: “It’s mentally anguishing to stick yourself many times a day to check your blood sugar,” he said. “There is lots of hope out there that if someone has constant knowledge of what they’re eating, they can instantly know what causes the response… and they can adjust it well before they become diabetic.”

Despite furthering its position in the wearables and medical market, Apple has iterated in the past that it wants to avoid FDA regulation. Speaking about the FDA, Cook said: “We don’t want to put the watch through the FDA process. I wouldn’t mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long. But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it — maybe an app, maybe something else.”

CNBC reports that in contrast to the rumoured Apple tech, Sano’s method isn’t classed as non-invasive, as it uses tiny needles.

The network adds that experts in the biosensor field remain uncertain over the reliability of non-invasive glucose tracking, with major players in healthcare having previously tried and failed to commercialise such technology.

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