Mobile Technology Giants Hiring Medical Scientists to Develop Wearable Health Apps
BYLINE: Christina Farr Reuters
SAN FRANCISCO: For decades, medical technology firms have searched for ways to let diabetics check blood sugar easily, with scant success. Now, the world's largest mobile technology firms are getting in on the act.
Apple, Samsung and Google, searching for applications that could turn nascent wearable technology like smartwatches from curiosities into must-have items, have all set their sights on monitoring blood sugar.
These firms are hiring medical scientists and engineers, asking US regulators about oversight and developing glucose-measuring features in future wearable devices, sources said.
The first round of technology may be limited, but eventually the companies could compete in a global blood-sugar tracking market worth over $12 billion (R128bn) by 2017, according to research firm GlobalData.
"All the biggies want glucose on their phone," said John Smith, former chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson's LifeScan, which makes blood glucose monitoring supplies. "Get it right, and there's an enormous pay-off."
Apple, Google and Samsung declined to comment, but Courtney Lias, director at the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) chemistry and toxicology devices division, said a marriage between mobile devices and glucose-sensing is "made in heaven".
In a December meeting with Apple executives, the FDA described how it may regulate a glucometer that measures blood sugar, according to an FDA summary of the discussion.
Even an educational device would need a breakthrough from current technology, though, and some in the medical industry say the tech firms don't understand the core challenges.
"There is a cemetery full of efforts" to measure glucose in a non-invasive way, said DexCom chief executive Terrance Gregg, whose firm is known for minimally invasive techniques.
To succeed would require "several hundred million dollars or even a billion dollars," he said.
Medtronic senior vice-president of medicine and technology Stephen Oesterle said he now considered Google to be the medical device firm's next great rival, thanks to its funding for research and development, or R&D. …