LabStyle: Turning Your Smartphone Into a Smart Glucose Monitor

This Israeli startup's invention can help diabetics see how every peach you eat and weight you lift affects glucose levels.

Stage 1: Measure your blood glucose level using the Dario device.
Stage 1: Measure your blood glucose level using the Dario device.Credit: Daniel Sharon

To stay healthy, diabetics have to closely monitor glucose levels in their blood. And if they could monitor their blood sugar constantly, helpful insights could ensue.

It's become trivial to measure blood-sugar at any time of day you please. Glucometers abound. The problem is painting the larger picture – correlating between day to day activities and blood sugar.

Enter "Dario," the compact personalized smart glucometer.

The company deliberately designed it to look like a gadget, by the way, rather than a medical device.

When you want to check your blood sugar, you use it – the thing comes complete with lancet, and cartridge of disposable test strips all in one – and plug it into the phone. Essentially, you are turning your smart phone into your smart glucometer.

Through the smartphone connection, an app and web portal lets the user easily keep track of a personal archive of data stored in the cloud, as well as help them know how food intake and exercise are affecting their diabetes. They can also share critical data in real-time with caregivers or whomever they chose.

The app also analyses the patient's level of glycated hemoglobin, through hemoglobin A1c assays. This a form of "sugared" hemoglobin (the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen through the body). Monitoring it indicates the patient's average glucose concentration in the blood over prolonged periods of time.

Moving beyond dumb smartphone apps

"Mobile health" - harnessing smartphones and the Internet to improve health – is all the rage. There are plenty of smartphone apps for diabetes itself, admits Raphael - but most are simply digitized log-books, and the various apps they checked had low retention rates, he says. Which means people didn't find them useful enough to keep using them. LabStyle's vision was to paint the big picture.

Aside from producing periodic statistical reports, the app has additional data options. Among other things, it's has integrated with a database of food and restaurant menu called FatSecret, which provides nutritional information such as carbohydrate and fat content on a broad range of food types, on a regional basis. Such information when combined with Dario's tools show users how their food intake affects their sugar levels.

The Dario powerful diabetes management application also integrates with RunKeeper, which allows people with diabetes to better track and manage their physical activity, as well as stay motivated with RunKeeper’s “fitness companion.” Information logged with RunKeeper after exercise can be seamlessly transferred to Dario, making it easier to monitor how exercise is directly affecting glucose levels, the company explains.

"Patients with chronic conditions like diabetes see their doctor once per quarter, for an hour," says Erez Raphael, CEO of LabStyle. "In other words, he sees the doctor for four hours a year at best. For almost 9,000 hours a year, the patient is on his own and has to make his own decisions."

While a patient can't be his own doctor, Raphael acknowledges, better information can be empowering. Apropos of which, the patient can choose to share the information with others if he pleases.

The Dario app is available to iPhone users and an android version has been launched in select locations. A broader android launch is scheduled for September.

The company was actually founded in 2011 by an physician, David Weintraub, and an economist Oren Fuerst: Raphael joined the following year. Today it has 20 employees, of whom 15 work in Caesarea. The Dario device is made in the United States and is available in England, Italy – where insurers will reimburse its cost – and in New Zealand and Australia

In the U.S., it's in the process of clearance by the Food & Drugs Administration. The company hopes to start selling there in early 2015, for $60 per device. The disposable test strips naturally cost extra – 40 cents each.

Though a very young company, LabStyle is already publicly listed and traded over the counter on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol DRIO. In the future the company plans to expand to other chronic conditions amenable to home testing.

Stage 2: Analysis with the Dario device.Credit: Daniel Sharon
LabStyle CEO Erez Raphael: "For almost 9,000 hours a year, the patient is on his own and has to make his own decisions."Credit: Dor Malcha

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