I completely over promised and under delivered this week on the blog and for that I’m sorry. I am excited to share this post with you even though it’s late.
A couple of weeks ago, a link to a YouTube video ended up in my inbox and I ignored it figuring that I would watch it later. Then it showed up on Facebook and I had a minute so I watched.
The person who had sent me the link was Devon Grimmé, the guy in the video. As part of the No Pricks campaign, Devon, a healthy-pancreas person, decided to check his blood sugar with a finger stick and inject himself with saline to mimic the testing and injecting that people with diabetes have to do. Here’s the video:
I have to admit that I laughed at Devon struggling with getting the blood on the test strip, it’s so annoying when the strip doesn’t take the sample! It made me remember a time when one of the people who had said, “I couldn’t do that!” asked to check his blood sugar to see what it’s like. It was Brad’s friend Jeremy. Jeremy falls into the tough guy category, and even though he wanted his blood sugar checked, he came to the conclusion that he couldn’t do it himself and I needed to check it for him. Even though I had to stick his finger, he still did it.
Devon gave himself a shot and made himself bleed for more than just the experience, so I figured I should probably talk to him. He agreed to an interview, and here it is:
About the video where you check your blood sugar and inject with saline, what number did you have the lancet on and how many units of saline did you inject (it looked like a lot)?
I had the lancet (Accuchek FastClix) set on 5, and I injected 20 units. My boss (a nephrologist quite familiar with diabetes as many of his patients also had it) suggested this as a significant but realistic dose for many with diabetes, especially those with larger body masses.
What was the worst part of your experience filming a finger stick and injection?
There were really two things: both psychological, which I have come to learn is what many feel is the worst part of the disease. First was the anticipation. I have had plenty of blood drawn, shots and such, so the injection didn’t bother me, but having to do it to myself and the anticipation was horrible. The next thing was the realization of how incredibly difficult and draining it must be to know that there are a seemingly infinite number of shots still to come. Knowing that that same anticipation and worry is going to be back really soon, and never really leaves. You just HAVE to do it again to keep yourself alive. I had this moment of all those thoughts hitting me at once and it was kind of overwhelming for a minute. But it was a good reminder of how amazing and underappreciated the diabetes community is, and a great reminder of why I get out of bed every morning to work toward changing this aspect of peoples’ lives.
Can you tell me about how the No Pricks campaign started and what the goals of the campaign are?
It was actually kind of funny. We had been talking about social media and crowdfunding for a while, but we lacked a catchy slogan or motto to get people to share it easily. One day, a friend shared the crowd funding campaign for the Coolest, a new, futuristic cooler with all kinds of hi-tech features. It had raised over a million dollars in just over a day, and I thought “That’s it- we have a product that will change the world, and this is just a cooler! It CAN’T be that hard!” (I was wrong.)
So I started taking notes, doing heavy research, trying to figure out the whole thing. I just couldn’t sit on my hands anymore. Later that day, like 4:30 or 5 in the afternoon, it just hit me out of nowhere. No Pricks. I loved it. But the first thing I did was check if the domain was available. I thought there was no way. But it was! Then I realized what people were sure to find if they searched for No Pricks. I couldn’t believe that it was all about glucose monitoring! It was a sign. I ran into my boss’ office, laughing, and told him the idea. He loved it. So we bought the domain with a promo code for $2 and I started working on putting together a video, website and everything else. It was all very learn-as-you-go and just trying anything to see what worked.
As far as the goals, awareness was a big one. We just want people to know we are out there, working on something amazing and truly wanting to connect with the diabetes community to make sure it will be exactly what they need and want. We don’t want this to be the next great product that we shove down peoples’ throats and squeeze money out of them. We aim to make it much less expensive than current insulin therapy (since it’s much simpler and cheaper to manufacture) and we want to be part of their lives. The money is only a tool to do this for other diseases in the future. We are really a global health company- our mission is to create simple products that everyone in the world can access in order to achieve their maximum health potential. Where you are born shouldn’t determine whether or not you get treatment.
The second goal of the campaign is to get some funding. We have received the very valid question of why we are asking customers to invest in our mission and products. Since we are very different in how we approach the product development process, and perceive our goal to be to improve lives and not solely generate profits, we have to fund ourselves differently. The reality is we could easily sell off our technology to a big company or investment group, but we don’t want that. We want to take the product to market ourselves, so that we can make sure that we keep it as inexpensive as possible, and in some cases give away patches if we need to in order to make sure that everyone who needs them gets them. Every dollar we raise from this campaign helps ensure that we can stick to our mission and not have to take traditional money that comes with strings attached.
Do you have any personal connection(s) to diabetes?
I have several friends who have diabetes, or have children that do (that one seems especially tough), and so I have been relying on them a lot to inform our development, messaging, everything.
Tell me about Prometheon Pharma?
Prometheon Pharma is a biotech startup based in the University of Florida’s #1-ranked Sid Martin Biotech Incubator. It was started by Dr. Stephen Hsu, a Harvard-trained MD/PhD who decided to leave an endowed chair at a prestigious university to bring his vision to life. After discovering this technology, he decided that rather than to have it be JUST a great scientific discovery, he wanted to make sure that it actually saw the light of day and improved lives. So he left academia altogether to make that vision a reality. A pretty bold move for somebody who has been in academia for 30 years and has a very coveted position. I respect him a lot for that, and that’s a big part of why I took a chance and followed him.
The bottom line is we have an amazing technology, and we are determined to get it to everyone who needs it. So we have to be a bit different. It’s hard, but very rewarding.
What are the basics of the TruePatch?
The TruePatch is all about convenience. Making it easy for someone to use is what will help them stick to their prescription and achieve their maximum health potential, while reducing complications.
The basics are that it is completely needle-free, needs little refrigeration, and can last up to 7 days. It’s pretty much like a medicated Band-Aid. That simple. The drug is locked in a solid matrix at room temperature, which makes it really stable and needs very little refrigeration. Once you put it on your skin, it warms up into a gel and starts delivering a very consistent and constant dose of insulin, the same amount for up to 7 days.
The patch delivers basal insulin, what about bolus insulin?
Bolus is coming as soon as we can get to it. Resources are limited so we have to focus on basal first, but we have recently been brainstorming about bolus, and we think we know conceptually how we would design that patch. We aren’t there yet but will get there as soon as we can. In the meantime, we hope that reducing even a few shots a day for those with Type 1 will improve their lifestyle and the consistency of their dosing.
How quickly after placing a new patch does it start working?
The drug starts delivering right away, and so far it looks like the full dose starts delivering within a few hours, but no more than 24 hours. And as soon as you take it off and wash the site, it will stop delivering, which can be really important too. We won’t know exact numbers until human trials, and of course it will vary by individual, but since it delivers right to the capillaries, the delivery is very rapid and efficient. We have also found it only takes about 10% of the normal insulin dose to achieve the same effect.
About how far away from human trials for TruePatch are you?
As for human trials, the major obstacle is funding. If we got all the funding we needed (about $10 million) tomorrow, we would start large animal (pig) studies required by the FDA and then apply for human trials. We could start those as early as next summer, and our current target is to be on the market by 2018.
Many who have lived with Type 1 have developed scar tissue and other issues that impact absorption,limiting “real estate” for pump sites. Where would the recommended sites for wearing the patch be?
That’s a great point! One, to be honest, we haven’t thought much about. Just another reason needles suck!
Because of the way TruePatch delivers so efficiently at the capillary layer, relatively shallow in the skin compared to deep injections, it can be applied just about anywhere. The different recommended injection sites are chosen due to characteristics that are just not as important for the way the patch works.
As a bit more background than the average introduction, our patch is very much like a nicotine patch. Nicotine is a small molecule- around 250 Daltons (the measure of molecular weight). There has been a long-standing “rule of 500” in industry/academia. Nothing bigger than 500 Daltons can get across the skin without active transport- a needle, air pen, ultrasound, etc. That basically means industry tried, spent tons of money, and failed, so it “can’t be done”. Luckily, Steve had never heard this, and was trying to solve a different issue altogether, and it just so happened a byproduct of the formula he chose was getting HUGE molecules across the skin. Insulin is 6,000 and we have also successfully tried human growth hormone at 22,000 Daltons. So THAT is the real innovation, scientifically speaking. The translation into convenience is the great human impact.
What else do you think my readers should know about you, Prometheon, True Patch or #NoPricks?
The most important thing is that we are really here to serve them. We are not just another big pharma company that sees them as a profit center. We are a small team of 5, with 5 interns, so while we are really busy, we are really accessible and want to hear from them. We want them to learn about us and become part of the family, and spread the word to their friends.
We would also love it if they would support our campaign by donating just a dollar and getting a few friends to do the same- when we increase the number of funders, we increase our chances of being featured on Indiegogo’s home page, which helps us reach more people and get more funding.
Additionally, some people have said they will only support a cure. So I talked my boss into letting us adopt this policy: for every dollar we raise now, toward a better treatment, we will donate TWO dollars toward a cure once we are profitable. Since we don’t know exactly when that will be, we haven’t specified it. We will consult all the funders at that point and ask for their opinion on what seems to be the most promising for a cure. Ultimately, we would love to see our products become obsolete because a cure has been found. Until then, we want to make peoples’ lives easier.
Can you give me the list of all the links I should have? Website, social media, etc.
The NoPricks Indiegogo campaign is at www.igg.me/at/nopricks
The NoPricks homepage is www.NoPricks.com – we will maintain this for news and such after the campaign ends on 9/26.
The Prometheon homepage where you can learn more about the company and our history is www.PrometheonPharma.com. We will be updating that site soon, as well!
Our YouTube page is https://www.youtube.com/user/nopricks
As for social media, www.facebook.com/prometheonpharma and www.twitter.com/prometheonpharm and Instagram @PrometheonPharma. We would love for you to interact with us and use the hashtag #NoPricks. We would love to see your story, pictures, video, art, anything about what a world with #NoPricks would mean to you.