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JDRF and Tandem Diabetes Care Announce Partnership to Develop a Dual-Chambered Pump for the Artificial Pancreas

On January 8, JDRF and Tandem Diabetes Care announced a partnership to develop a new dual-chambered pump, which would enable delivery of insulin plus another hormone (e.g., glucagon to prevent hypoglycemia) using the same device. JDRF has agreed to support funding for the development, testing, and manufacturing of Tandem’s dual-chambered pump for the next two years. This is very encouraging news, since many researchers believe that insulin-only control with an artificial pancreas does not go far enough.

As a reminder, the pancreas in someone without diabetes secretes several hormones in addition to insulin. The goal of this JDRF-Tandem partnership would be to produce a pump that can deliver two types of hormonal therapies, enabling better, more physiologic regulation of blood glucose levels. This was a point of emphasis during the recent Diabetes Technology Meeting (DTM) in November (see conference pearls in diaTribe #50), where we heard enthusiasm for bihormonal control with insulin and glucagon (particularly from Dr. Ed Damiano).

As we understand it, the Tandem pump would have separate reservoirs for the different hormones, though we’re not quite sure how the infusion sets would work. We assume separate tubing and potentially separate infusion sites would be needed, though we suspect more details will be announced in the coming years. Aside from a two chambered pump, another key area needed for innovation is glucagon – since current formulations of glucagon require mixing a liquid and powder prior to use, they are not optimal for use in a pump. However, encouraging news on this front came at DTM in November from Dr. Steve Prestrelski of Xeris Pharmaceuticals. Xeris is working on a stable formulation of glucagon that would not need to be mixed prior to use. Trials are beginning soon, and if all goes well, the timeline of Xeris’ glucagon could line up well with Tandem’s new pump.   

As a reminder, Tandem Diabetes Care manufactures the t:slim insulin pump (see test drive in diaTribe #47). The pump was cleared by the FDA at the end of 2011 and was launched at the end of August 2012. Tandem’s innovative and patient-centric approach helped them create a pump that is intuitive and simple to use, including a color touch screen and many safety features. The combination of Tandem’s creative approach to building products and JDRF’s incredibly impressive and influential work on the artificial pancreas (see new now next in diaTribe #40 and new now next in diaTribe #44) should hopefully translate into an excellent product for patients.

In addition to a dual-chambered pump, Tandem is already partnered with Dexcom to integrate CGM into an insulin pump. As of the most recent update we just heard at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, a Tandem pump with a Dexcom CGM receiver built in could come as soon as 2014. We’re glad to see Tandem putting in place the necessary tools to build an artificial pancreas, and we look forward to seeing the progress on both these fronts in the coming years. –MN/AB

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