When I first heard that ‘something’ was happening between Google and Dexcom, my ears perked up immediately. I’m such a firm believer that staying within your box, in anything diabetes, eventually leads to being confined to four sides, a bottom, and top flaps. It’s crucial for any researchers, all researchers, whether for a cure or for technological advances; to open up the possibilities to investigate not just what you know; but to bring in people who may show you what you are not even thinking about.
So when given the opportunity to sit down, once again, and discuss some of the inside story with Kevin Sayer, CEO of Dexcom—I JUMPED at the opportunity.
It’s his kind of forward thinking that so many in the diabetes world need, dare I say must, learn; to truly bring so many ideas to completion. Here is my interview with a true diabetes superstar, Kevin Sayer talking candidly about everything from FDA navigation to a recent deal with Google……yes, THAT Google.
DiabetesDad: How long did the process take with the FDA.
Kevin Sayer: There is a statutory 6 months review time. And in the middle of that process they can ask a bunch of questions which may or may not take you off the clock. And you have to answer the questions. For this process it took less than the six months, and that’s pretty record time. The FDA was very diligent in their review process of this watch thing.
DD: Is it Apple Phone first and the droid second–is that the FDA approval process or is that on Dexcom?
KS: No that is all on us. We have to get the software developed. And we submitted the receiver and the Apple app first. If we could do it all at the same time we would but honestly Tom, it’s our resources and we have to make sure each step is done right. It’s a learning process as well, we felt it better to learn the first platform, get it approved and move on to the second. I am not exactly sure but it may be a faster approval process because it is a software revision for the android, but I’m just not sure just yet how that will play out in the approval process. But I know our Android software development guys are working diligently.
DD: This question is actually from my daughter (who has T1D) “I am a Dexcom user and I do not have the Share System just yet, walk me through how I can use it in my iPhone, if I wanted to use it today.”
KS: Here is the process. We would love to be like a cell phone company and just give upgrades as fast as they do but we, truthfully, do not have that luxury due to the need for regulatory approval; so it’s a little tougher for us. So if someone does not have a Share system then the best route is to get a Dexcom G5 Mobile system. And so we have upgrade-programs for different patients who need different aspects within their warranty programs and most current users can go on-line and get involved in the upgrade program…..and go. The reason she has to buy a new receiver with the G5 Mobile is that the FDA wants each new patient to have a back-up device. The FDA is very cognizant of phone charging and people have their phones plugged in every day to charge, and they want that back up. Once she has the correct set-up, she does not have to actually use the receiver if she has the phone, but we are required to supply it for a back-up. She would go to the App Store and download the Dexcom G5 Mobile App to her phone and she would go from there.
DD: My daughter also asked “I am going to be nervous with just my phone, would my receiver still work and keep it if needed from her Share program, just in case?”
KS: For herself, yes; but the receiver will not share data by itself without the phone. We need the phone to send the data to the cloud for sharing with others. And that’s also the case with the Share receiver now. We understand the value of connectivity and the Share feature so we are working hard to improve those functions for future products. We are trying to cover every base as we move forward on connectivity.
DD: Could you explain your news release as far as Google actually playing a role in the Dexcom platform?
KS: Do you have a couple of hours?
DD: I always do for you, but I know you don’t have that kind of time.
(we both laugh)
KS: Tom, we started talking to Google and they announced a first subsidiary in a health care group. And they have made that a formal business platform with its own CEO (Andy Conrad) with whom I have been talking. Google is extremely good at managing data and figuring things out from data-point-of-view and very good at the miniaturization of devices. They certainly know more about cellular radios, and chips etc. than we do. We are very good at what we do, I have the best engineers there are but when we started talking with them we realized that they could open doors to us on things we just don’t know. The vision for our partnership with Google is to take our core sensor technology and make the transmitter disposable, to be very low-cost, and to be the size of a dime—and about the height of maybe two dimes. You would put on this ‘Band-Aid’, wear it for a period of time and dispose of it and just put on another one. That’s our ambitious goal. We gave ourselves a five-year window to work on this together. To make this device so inviting that anyone can wear it. Google also gives us the opportunity to address Type 2 (T2) patients with our great sensor technology. Many of the benefits that I just mentioned, smaller, disposable and low-cost will likely apply to the Type 2 patients that need to understand their glucose on a continuous basis…information they can never get from doing just finger-sticks.
We have needed a vehicle to help us go there and Google really wants to focus a lot on those markets. And also analyzing the data from the patients. They asked me when we sat down, “Do you know when a T2 patient has to go on Insulin?” I answered, “No” and they asked me if I knew how to detect that, and I told them no to that as well. We want to use sensors to figure that out. SO we look at comments like that and what THEY want to contribute to health care and it could be creating a secondary market for us. We look at our core business and our core patients and everything I said about making it smaller and adding analytics, it’s applicable to all. So what I think you’ll see as our Google relationship evolves is we will have a series of CGM products. This is going to take a lot of thought and research to serve and benefit people across the diabetes space. Google will be a wonderful add as we continue on trying to better serve those in this space.
We discussed my family a bit and the use of a CGM and Kevin picks up the discussion.
KS: Tom think about this, and this was our thought in this Google deal, more than anything else. I will tell you this was a long discussion internally and I have GREAT engineers. GREAT. And now I have Google coming in and saying we should look at ‘miniaturizing’ these things to levels that we could not have fully grasped. If we could put a Band-Aid on your son doing the job of our present transmitter….it’s all over. ………
DD: It’s definitely all over………
KK: ……..And when we looked at that if they can speed us up in getting us there and we can get there with them and their expertise, this is exactly what the community needs. So let’s just go for it……and we did and we are very exciting about all of this.
DD: How did this relationship come about, it’s not as if you run across each in the cafeteria.
KS: We were introduced, they have been studying diabetes for a long time. We did not know how seriously the meeting would go and talks started to go very quickly. And here we are, looking for a really good future.
DD: Thank you again for giving us some time.
KS: My pleasure.
Bravo Dexcom and Google. Anything to help us deal with this disease, THAT much better, is a HUGE win for everyone. These wins could never happen without two CEOs looking to at least try to find a synergy. Listen up diabetes community: Take a page from Mr. Sayer and Mr.Conrad’s playbook in moving the dial forward. We who live with this disease either ourselves, or through the eyes of loved ones; deserve nothing less.
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