The big story in diabetes tech in 2020 was one of delays—the coronavirus pandemic threw our entire health system into disarray, and many diabetes businesses had to push back plans. Several of the innovations that we profiled in last year’s version of the same article haven’t yet made it to the market. With a COVID-19 vaccine now being administered—and with a greater level of comfort and normalcy around the telemedicine appointments that so many of us have resorted to—we can hope that things will get back to normal, and that the pace of innovation will get back on track in 2021.
Next year’s big story should be the rise of the closed-loop insulin pump system. Tandem’s new Control-IQ system will have competition, as Medtronic and Omnipod both hope to release their own looping systems. Every year the dream of the “artificial pancreas” seems more and more realistic.
Here are the major new technologies and devices that we hope to see in 2021:
The G6 was the “killer app” of continuous glucose monitors, and everyone is excited to see what the company comes up with next. The G7 will be a full redesign. The sensor will be a lot smaller than the G6 sensor, and it will now be completely disposable—no reusable transmitter.
Dexcom had been teasing an end-of-2020 debut for the G7, but the pandemic interrupted some of the company’s testing and slowed things down. Now it looks like we might see the G7 in the second half of 2021.
The company is planning to sell a lot of these, and in anticipation of huge demand they are levelling up their manufacturing capabilities. Dexcom says this will also help keep the price down. Our friends at Diabetes Daily have more details on the G7.
Abbott Freestyle Libre 3
Abbott has made a big push with the Freestyle Libre to close the gap with Dexcom.
It was only this year that Abbott released the Freestyle Libre 2, a continuous glucose monitor with one of the features that the Dexcom is best known for: the Libre 2 adds real-time alarms for high or low blood sugar. However, the user still has to scan the sensor with their smartphone or a reader to get the values.
Remarkably, the company has already brought the next version, the Freestyle Libre 3, to market in Europe. This sensor is smaller and thinner—the size of two pennies stacked on top of each other, rather than the previous device’s two quarters. Most importantly, it automatically updates blood glucose values—no more scanning!
The last feature should also allow the Freestyle Libre 3 to integrate with insulin pumps and closed-loop systems. No word on a United States debut yet, but the company will undoubtedly move as quickly as it can.
Medtronic describes its new product as an “advanced hybrid closed loop.” Two features that set it apart: the pump system can deliver automatic correction boluses, and will allow users to set a goal as low as 100 mg/dL. We’re extra excited about that last feature; the closer that a loop system can bring its user towards a truly healthy blood sugar level, the better.
Medtronic has just released the 780G in Europe, but the path to an American debut seems rockier: the company will “continue to work with the FDA on the most efficient filing strategy for the 780G,” according to CEO Geoff Martha.
Omnipod’s popular tubeless insulin pump might get a massive upgrade in 2021: the Horizon system will integrate with a continuous glucose monitor to close the loop, allowing for automatic insulin adjustments.
The company released positive results from its first trial of the system, in which users (including children and adolescents) reported tighter control using a target of 110 mg/dL.
This was another product that might have debuted in 2020. A pivotal trial of the Horizon system hit a road bump in the spring, not because of COVID-19, but because of software issues. The business sorted out the issue by the summer and appears ready to debut the Horizon in 2021.
Tandem t:sport insulin pump
Tandem is getting closer to unveiling its next-generation insulin pump. The new pump is being called the t:sport for now, and it will be half the size of the t:slim, which is already fairly sleek as far as insulin pumps go. The critical difference with the t:slim is that it will be controlled entirely by another device, either a smart device or an independent controller. That means that pump users won’t have to look at or even touch their insulin pump in order to order a bolus or change their delivery settings, a huge win for discretion and ease-of-use.
The t:sport still needs to jump some hurdles at the FDA, and when it debuts it may even have a different name. The company hopes to bring it to market before 2021 closes.
Tandem t:connect mobile app
Meanwhile, Tandem also continues to work on its popular mobile app. The t:connect app was released over the summer, giving t:slim users a new digital home for all the data they could ask for, not to mention a new discreet option for checking insulin status.
Updates to the app over the next year should add a big feature: remote bolus capability. That means current t:slim users won’t need to wait fot the t:sport before they can bolus without touching their device.
If one can bolus with a smartphone, does that mean that a parent could administer a bolus to a child from another room, or another building, or another city? In an interview with Diabetes Connections, Tandem’s Senior Director of Behavioral Sciences declined to speculate on the idea, saying that it was a question for the FDA to answer.