A diabetes innovation has won the United States 2020 James Dyson Award!
Thipok (Poom) Cholsaipant has invented a breath glucometer intended for people with prediabetes. Called Aerolyze, the monitor will pair with a smartphone or smartwatch and allows users to test blood glucose levels with just one deep breath.
Cholsaipant developed the idea in an industrial design course while completing his degree at the University of Washington. He is now back at home in Bangkok, Thailand, hoping to grow his idea into a startup business.
The appeal of the technology should be obvious: a deep breath is much less unpleasant and invasive than a fingerprick. A breath test could be administered during a jog, for example, without having to stop and fumble with a lancing device, meter and test strip.
The cost savings could also be enormous, because Cholsaipant’s glucometer does not require a disposable element equivalent to the test strip. Just imagine: no more test strips! Glucose meter test strips are so frustratingly expensive, and so inconsistently covered by insurance, that a robust black market has developed in the product. This is an issue that has touched Cholsaipant’s family directly—his father suffers from Type 2 diabetes, and recent complications have begun to impact his quality of life.
“My dad spends about $30 a month on test strips. In Bangkok, the minimum wage is $10 per day. You basically pay three days’ worth of work to test your blood glucose. And that’s not sustainable.”
Mindful of the risks to the many millions of people that are at risk of developing diabetes, the young designer has chosen to develop his glucometer primarily for the use of people with pre-diabetes. Aerolyze doesn’t yet boast the precision needed to inform insulin dosing decisions, but the smart device app will be able to identify trends that should allow people with pre-diabetes to keep their hyperglycemia under control. And Cholsaipant is hoping that a less invasive procedure will make it easier for people at risk of developing diabetes to commit to regular glucose monitoring.
“I don’t want other people to ever face diabetes, me included.”
Several businesses have attempted to design and market a breath glucometer in the past. There are still some stumbling blocks—for now, the device’s accuracy can be thrown off by exercise or atmospheric conditions, issues that Cholsaipant continues to grapple with. If he can solve those problems, the product could have potential down the road for people with Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes.
The award includes a $2,500 check that Cholsaipant says will help him pursue a patent for his invention. Having won the United States competition, Cholsaipant’s Aerolyze will now compete with other winners from other nations for the grand international prize. The international winner will be announced on November 19, 2020.
The James Dyson Award is presented annually to outstanding engineering projects designed by a current or recent student. The award is named after Sir James Dyson, best known as the inventor of the popular bagless vacuum cleaner that bears his name. Dyson, a lauded philanthropist and educator, helps to decide on the winners of the Award.