Does Apple have its eye on diabetes?

Dive Brief:

  • Apple has hired a team of biomedical engineers to develop noninvasive sensors that can monitor blood sugar and help diabetics manage their disease, CNBC reports, citing three unnamed sources.
  • The tech giant's secretive team, based in Palo Alto, CA, is part of an initiative first imagined by the late Steve Jobs (Apple’s founder).
  • If successful, the effort could create a whole new market for devices like the Apple watch.

Dive Insight:

Apple is already running feasibility trials at Bay Area clinical sites and has engaged consultants to help the company navigate the regulatory requirements for medical devices, the sources told CNBC. 

The tech giant and the FDA have been discussing a range of issues including the 510(k) process and the App Store review process for at least three years. The talks, which also alluded to three regulated medical devices Apple is developing, came to light in emails obtained by MobiHealthNews in November via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Since the launch of ResearchKit, HealthKit and CareKit, the Cupertino, CA, company has been hinting at a larger role in the healthcare arena. In August 2016, Apple confirmed the purchase of personal health record startup Gliimpse.

The company also beefed up its health team with hires such as Duke University physician and mobile strategy director Ricky Bloomfield, who helped to implement HealthKit and ResearchKit, and physician Mike Evans, who previously served as chief of digital preventive medicine at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute in Toronto.

During 2016, Apple also introduced two new health apps for Apple devices—AirStrip, which allows doctors to check appointment schedules on an Apple Watch and get feedback on patient diagnoses, and 3D4Medical, a portfolio of 3D anatomical images for doctors.

Apple isn’t the only tech giant vying for a piece of the healthcare pie. In recent months, IBM Watson Health has announced major initiatives including a partnership with Best Doctors to add Watson’s cancer suite to employee benefits packages and a link-up of IBM’s PowerAI deep learning software toolkit with NVIDIA’s NVLink interconnect technology. The latter is already being used to improve diagnoses and care plans by sifting through patient data.

In addition, Microsoft is expanding its healthcare footprint via its analytics capabilities, teaming with Twist BioSciences on DNA digital data storage and with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to create innovative care delivery products, among other initiatives.

Filed Under: Health IT