I recently had the opportunity to chat with MedAngel’s founder, Amin Zayani. MedAngel is a device that helps people keep track of the temperature of their medicine. Amin and his brother both have type 1 diabetes, and in our interview, he shared his personal experience dealing with insulin that was not kept cold enough. He also explained some of the challenges and excitement he has faced since he launched MedAngel.
Tell us about MedAngel. What does the device do and how?
MedAngel ONE is a wireless Bluetooth temperature sensor that is kept with your medications. It continuously measures the temperature and communicates with an app on your phone. The app knows the safe ranges for stored or opened medications and alerts you only when there is a real danger.
What is your personal connection to this company and how did the idea come about?
I started MedAngel after a very frustrating experience one summer day in 2013. I was injecting loads of insulin to correct my high blood glucose, but it was not having any effect. I had to run to the hospital to get my blood sugars stabilized. I got lucky and did not go into diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) that day. Instead, I was given a fresh batch of insulin.
Things got back under control, but I wanted to know what the cause of the incident was. I started investigating how well my refrigerator worked and realized that it was the source of the problem. The temperature inside it fluctuated between -2 and +12 degrees C! This is totally outside the recommended range (2-8 degrees) and it was irreversibly reducing my insulin’s effectiveness.
At the time, I worked at a startup that helped developers build apps connected with all kinds of wireless sensors. I realized I had the skills and tools to find a solution and make sure the problem did not occur again. I built a first version of MedAngel, and started showing it to other people with type 1 diabetes. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, so I decided to quit my job, invest all my savings (plus a loan from the bank) and I joined a startup accelerator in the Netherlands to build MedAngel.
What were the challenges of creating a product like this?
There have been many challenges on many levels.
- Business challenges – we wondered, why had no one come up with a solution to this problem before? It seemed too obvious and too easy.
- Legal challenges – this category of digital health aids is so new. We did not know if such a solution should be classified as a medical device or not.
- Tech and design – we had to make a product that is simple to setup, easy to use and with intuitive design. It was not easy to turn abstract temperature readings into the hearts and color-based interface we have now.
What kind of feedback have you had from people who use the device?
We have gotten very positive feedback. Our early users have been people who’ve faced similar problems to what I faced, such as accidentally spoiled or frozen insulin. Most users have a high level of awareness of their diabetes and are quite serious about keeping their blood sugar levels under control. Once people start using MedAngel, they cannot stop, because it brings peace of mind and takes away the uncertainty.
Is it for people to use in any part of the world?
Absolutely. We made sure our solution is versatile, scalable and usable offline. It is been used now in all European and Scandinavian countries, as well as the US, Canada, and Australia by both individuals and professionals. It has also been provided to medical teams in regions of the world that cannot afford sophisticated medical refrigerator monitors. For example, MedAngel is used in Sierra Leone’s second largest hospital. Thanks to a connection from T1International’s Insulin for Syrians campaign, we donated some MedAngel devices to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) team transporting insulin to people with type 1 diabetes in Syria.
What does the future hold for MedAngel?
Our team would say that we are obsessed with solving this problem. All our present and future efforts will contribute to improving the conditions of storage of medications at home and on the go. Our dream is that everyone in the world gets access to this peace of mind, because nobody should doubt if his or her insulin has gone off because it was too hot or too cold. We made it our mission to eliminate that worry.
In the future, we will focus on empowering people with tools and knowledge, and we hope to extend the monitoring solution with a way to protect insulin from fluctuating temperature.