At SXSW: Solving Diabetes With An Open Source Pancreas

At SXSW: Solving Diabetes With An Open Source Pancreas

By Steve Cook, UpwellBeing Contributing Writer

March, 10, 2019 — On March 9, 2019, at the SXSW festival, in Austin, TX, Scott Hanselman (@SHanselman) delivered an illuminating keynote titled, “Solving Diabetes with an Open Source Pancreas.” Hanselman, a principal community architect programmer at Microsoft, has been a type 1 diabetic for more than 20 years. When he was first diagnosed, he did what many engineers would do—he wrote an app to solve his problem.

Hanselman began with the notion that finger-stick testing is painful. As many diabetics know, if you choose to use a range of monitoring and pump devices, it can be a huge frustration because glucose meters and other monitors are closed systems that don’t connect with each other. Hanselman noted that it is hard to upload and store your data, and, even when you do, there is limited or no access to it.

Scott Hansleman

In an attempt to do something about this, an industrious and motivated global group in the programming, engineering, and medical communities—of which Haselman is an outspoken leader—have been collaboratively engineering and hacking together diabetes management solutions over the past decade. They have been using open source hardware and software to help type 1 and type 2 diabetics better understand and manage their blood glucose and insulin levels.

As a result, Hanselman and others can now live 24 hours a day by being connected to what they call an “Open Source Artificial Pancreas.” According to the organization: “The Open Artificial Pancreas System project (#OpenAPS) is an open and transparent effort to make safe and effective basic Artificial Pancreas System (APS) technology widely available to more quickly improve and save as many lives as possible and reduce the burden of Type 1 diabetes. OpenAPS means basic overnight closed-loop APS technology is more widely available to anyone with compatible medical devices who is willing to build their own system.”

During his SXSW talk, Hanselman shared very encouraging news indicating that some medical technology companies are beginning to see business opportunities in the development, and FDA testing, of commercial connected diabetes management systems. In fact, many of these med-tech companies are hiring the pioneer hackers to develop more robust and easier to use future solutions.

So, because of Hanselman and his colleagues, diabetics now have an online, connected community to share these solutions and learnings. One of these groups is the Nightscout Project and Nightscout Foundation. Another important source of diabetes med-tech information can be found at Tidepool, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making diabetes data more accessible, actionable, and meaningful for those with the condition, their care teams, and researchers.  More information can be seen at #WeAreNotWaiting and #OpenAPS.

You can also learn more about the architectural design of two popular diabetes management systems—lLoopKit and OpenAPS—in Hanselman’s weekly podcast.

Hanselman’s full presentation can be viewed here.