A better way for type 1 diabetics

Here and Now

This story was originally reported by PRI’s Here & Now. For more, listen to the audio above.

After giving up his life as a dotcom entrepreneur, having founded internet mainstays like Citysearch and GoTo.com, Jeffrey Brewer was told that his son Sean had type 1 diabetes. “I felt like a ton of bricks had just been dumped on my head,” Brewer told PRI’s Here and Now.” He knew very little about that disease up to that point.

Type 1 diabetes, once known as “juvenile onset diabetes,” is a chronic disease that occurs because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Diet and exercise cannot control the disease, so type 1 diabetics are forced to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels using blood tests and insulin shots or pumps. If a person’s blood sugar gets too high or too low, the situation can be life-threatening.

Soon after his son’s diagnosis, Brewer was shocked by how antiquated the treatment was. “I had this logbook,” he told Wired magazine. “I’m testing Sean every few hours, and I’m thinking, this is crying out for automation. A computer should do this and would do it better. Why didn’t this exist, with all that we can do?”

Brewer immediately set to work, pushing for an artificial pancreas that would both monitor and manage people’s glucose levels. He partnered with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), donating a million dollars to the organization to push for the device.

Though initial tests have been positive, the FDA has not yet approved the artificial pancreas—much to Brewer’s dismay. According to Wired, Brewer believes “that speeding the FDA’s decisionmaking process might eventually require the kind of marches and protests that other advocacy groups have used.”

Brewer says he and the JDRF are devoted to finding a cure for diabetes, not just managing it. In the meantime, however, the new artificial pancreas could make life with diabetes a lot easier.

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