Blood Relative: New (Armenian) invention expected to make diabetes easier to control

A revolutionary glucose level measuring and monitoring device for diabetics will become available next year, and its Armenian inventor hopes it will find broad application in Armenia, where diabetes is a wide-spread health risk.

The Glucoband is the latest development of U.S.-based Calisto Medical, Inc. (www.calistomedical.com).

The company’s CEO and founder Vahram Mouradian, who is the main inventor of the Glucoband (and who owned Yerevan’s Leda Systems until selling it off to Synopsis last year), says the device is the first non-invasive blood glucose monitor. If proven effective, the Glucoband would enable users to measure certain substances in the bloodstream, without breaking the skin.

“The device is aimed at enabling patients, healthcare professionals, and generally anyone to monitor glucose level changes and the measure of the glucose level in the body or blood,” says Mouradian.

The Glucoband is a wristwatch-like portable electronic device, with a touch screen, a built-in computer, embedded microprocessor, flash memory, and watch. According to Mouradian, if there is a demand, the company is also ready to provide designer Glucobands (with diamonds, etc.).

“It is an exciting thing that gives you (options such as a regular watch) and glucose level as well,” says Mouradian, adding that designers also took into account making the Glucoband as discrete as possible.

“No one will ever suspect that you are a diabetic because of wearing it,” says Mouradian.

The inventor hopes that the product, which still needs to be certified by Armenia’s Health Ministry and obtain a license for sale, will become available in Armenia next year, when it enters the international market (pending certain clinical tests).

The new device is also intended to be cost effective. Mouradian does not yet want to speculate on the price of the product, but says that it should be a few hundred dollars. (According to Mouradian, on an annual basis an average diabetic in America spends up to $2,500 on means of monitoring glucose.)

“It will be saving probably 75 percent on an annual basis,” Mouradian estimates.

To measure their glucose (“blood sugar”) level today, people have to prick their finger, extract blood, put the blood on a test strip and then put the strip into a monitor performing certain chemical analyses. The currently used monitor costs $100 and given that such tests might be performed by a patient four to 18 times a day (with the use of various disposable accessories, such as strips costing up to a dollar each) it adds up to quite an expensive procedure.

In contrast, the Glucoband needs no drop of blood (and is painless) as it accesses the body with just two electrodes producing data within a few minutes.

Mouradian says that the Glucoband is also unique because it is designed for continuous monitoring, which detects trends in the change of glucose, which could be useful data for a diabetic’s physician.

Mouradian says that the Glucoband can be used by anyone, without exception.

Diabetes, third behind cancer and cardio-vascular diseases as world-wide cause of death, has been steadily increasing in Armenia over the past decade, according to the World Health Organization. According to official statistics, there are about 16,000 diabetes patients in Armenia, but the actual number is believed to be multiple times higher.

Mouradian says the company’s interests in Armenia are mostly personal, as the potential here would hardly represent a commercial windfall. But four of the five-member team (including himself) working on the Glucoband are ethnic Armenians, with special interests in seeing the Armenian-produced device succeed. (Mouradian himself divides his time between his home in Texas, and Armenia.)

“As a sales market, Armenia is just a small fraction of what can be sold, for example in China. The whole of Armenia is like one part of Shanghai. But there is a certain potential for Armenia to have sufficient resources to be used as part of research and development, enhancement of the product line and support,” says Mouradian, adding that there is also a remote possibility of doing assembly and testing in Armenia.

“This product is not going to become Armenian per se, but certainly Armenia is considered number one outside of the U.S. for research development and, why not, marketing in the region,” Mouradian says. He adds that, ideally, every family should have the Glucoband, like they have thermometers or blood pressure monitors.

In June, Mouradian’s company introduced the Glucoband at a health exposition in San Diego, California. He says they already have a wide response to their planned offer and receive a couple of hundred emails every day, which, according to him, only confirms the need of a convenient and effective glucose level meter.

Mouradian is a 1984 graduate of the Polytechnic Institute in Yerevan from which he received his Ph. D. in electronic engineering and computer science.

Although he has no formal medical education, he worked extensively with medical groups, including in Armenia, and still has contacts with healthcare professionals. He has been “self-educating” in endocrinology towards diabetes for two and a half years.

Mouradian set up Calisto Medical in 2003 and the company became operational in early 2004.

“This is one good example when different fields of activities are combined,” says Mouradian.

“The whole idea here was putting together the medical advances and the knowledge and experience of advanced engineering and electronics.”