2016 Scientist: Ed Damiano, PhD

From the WebMD Archives

Health HeroesEd Damiano's son, David, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at just 11 months old. Frustrated at the lack of technology available to help manage David's blood sugar, Damiano came up with his own solution over the years: a fully automated bionic pancreas. The cellphone-sized wearable device monitors blood sugar 24/7 and releases the hormones insulin or glucagon to keep levels steady, just like a healthy pancreas would.

In the fall of 2015, Damiano started a company, Beta Bionics, to develop and market the device, called iLet. A year later, the National Institutes of Health gave his team a $12 million grant to study the bionic pancreas at 16 clinical sites across the country.

Damiano's goal was to get his bionic pancreas to market by the time David went to college. He didn't quite make it -- David is now a freshman at Boston University -- but he'll be close. A single-hormone version of the device is in studies now. 

"We suspect that the clinical trials will be done by the beginning of 2019, and by the middle of 2019 we'll have approval from the FDA," he says. "Which is not as good as getting the whole thing done by freshman year, but it's certainly going to be a better device than I had imagined."

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