Inside the Lilly Diabetes Blogger Summit


Editor’s Note: Beyond Type 1 Global Ambassador Council Member + T1D Libby Russell attended the Lilly Diabetes Blogger Summit, where the company debuted new tech developments. This piece represents Libby’s view on what’s new from Lilly, with her personal responses as a person living with type 1 diabetes. Lilly Diabetes paid for Libby’s travel.  

“This effort is not just about developing the latest in insulin delivery technology. It’s about unlocking a diabetes therapy that addresses the holistic needs of a person with diabetes that will actually make their life easier, and better.”—Matt Clemente, CTO, Delivery, Devices & Connected Solutions at Eli Lilly and PWD.

This month, a special team within Lilly Diabetes hosted a small group of diabetes bloggers from around the country to participate in a two-day summit at their new innovation center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

At this summit, a team consisting of both technology and scientific leaders as well as partners from the biotech industry announced that Lilly Diabetes is throwing their hat in the ring to keep pushing the capabilities of the “closed loop insulin delivery system.”

As a refresher for those of you (like me) who are dinosaurs about these kinds of things… a “closed loop system” is an ecosystem of diabetes treatment where an insulin pump (or pen) and continuous glucose monitor work together in tandem to manage the amount of insulin and/or glucagon that is being delivered into your system based on continuous glucose readings. In a perfect world, the algorithm that runs the system will help you monitor your blood sugar levels with little to no input as the patient. The idea is that it’s set to cruise control, and that you can sit back, relax and enjoy your life with a little less device maintenance overload and a little more peace of mind.

Lilly’s system is unique in many ways, and I was impressed with everything that went into it to make it appear to be something that might just…work. The “Connected Care” system Lilly is developing is all about customization. Here’s the high level scoop on what they had to show bloggers attending the summit:

  • With the help of DEKA, a medical device engineering and manufacturing company in New Hampshire, Lilly has developed its own insulin pump. It’s sleek, it’s tiny and it looks like an itty bitty Roomba (in my humblest of opinions). The rationale behind size and shape were discretion and preference of infusion site type. I thought that was pretty rad.
  • The pump reservoir holds 3 m/L of insulin, roughly three days worth, and can come preloaded or you can do your own reservoir fill-up (sometimes I oddly enjoy this process? Am I weird?).
  • The infusion set will be buyers’ choice. The Lilly team was very aware that people are happy in their ways, like what they like, and don’t really want to change something that’s working. They also discussed potential issues with the quality and safety of the cannula part of infusion sets.
  • The algorithm for the “closed-loop” aspects of the pump is being developed in a lab run by Dr. Ahmad Haidar up at McGill University, and will be housed IN the pump. (So, like…you know that scene in Zoolander when they’re trying to get the files out of the computer? Yeah, just like that.) This is great for people like me who can’t be trusted with nice things that get lost unless they’re attached to my body.
  • There are manual buttons on the pump to give yourself a correction or meal bolus, but for the most part, it runs on its own and from an app on your mobile device.
  • The app itself will include all the bells and whistles of the Dexcom G6. And that’s because…it will be fully integrated with the Dexcom G6! Lilly and Dexcom are working together to make this sensor situation as seamless as possible. Anyone remember that song by Far East Movement? I can’t stop singing it, tbh. The G6 is just so cool.
  • Another component of the app that I am super jazzed about: a patient to clinician custom care opportunity. Through a partnership with Rimidi, an Electronic Health Record system, endocrinologists and other docs will be able to more realistically tailor a plan that will improve the overall approach to a patient’s care, and also improve the relationship between doctor and patient that so many people struggle with. Ideally, this will also help improve the jarring gap of access to quality care that many people living with type 1 experience across the country.

Why Lilly? Why now? It seems like every major medical company is trying to race to a treatment that will set the new bar in the type 1 world. The official Lilly statement on why they’re getting involved: “Our nearly century-long commitment to developing lifesaving insulins and pioneering better management of diabetes puts us in a unique position to develop best-in-class systems, both with external partners as well as internally.”

One important note: rollout, pricing and accessibility updates are still pending—this device has not cleared all clinical trials, testing, etc.

Fingers crossed for something safe, effective and accessible to all people living with diabetes.

WRITTEN BY Libby Russell, POSTED 05/20/18, UPDATED 10/26/22

Libby is a copywriter at Vaynermedia in NYC, a city she never thought she'd be able to walk fast enough to live in. However, she seems to be doing just fine, and even passes people on the sidewalks these days! Type 1 diabetes (T1D) has been one of Libby's significant others for 11 years, and was diagnosed her junior year of high school. In college, she felt a huge void in exciting, fun, or even remotely realistic resources for people with diabetes her age. So, after she graduated, she decided to do something to disrupt the frustrating language barrier between diabetes and 20-somethings by launching her blog, I Have The Sugars. Libby now lives in Brooklyn with her bearded knight in shining armor, and can be found doing what she does best: not sitting still, and taking awkward infusion site selfies for her Instagram, @ihavethesugars.