According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 29.1 million Americans are diabetic and 86 million are prediabetic. Individuals with diabetes have a high risk of serious health complications such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke. Deaths worldwide due to diabetes are predicted to increase by 50 percent in the next 10 years, putting diabetes on track to becoming the seventh leading cause of death globally by 2030. To prevent further complications, it is imperative that people with diabetes have consistent and reliable blood glucose monitoring.
Co-Optical, a startup company comprised of four WSU students, has developed the only non-invasive blood glucose measurement device to help aid in consistent monitoring. The team won the University of Washington Business Plan Competition’s $5,000 AARP Award recognizing the business plan that best impacted seniors. Additionally, they placed second in the WSU Business Plan Competition and received two $2,500 merit prizes, including best presentation and best social impact business.
New technology revolutionizes disease management
The Co-Optical device is unlike any blood glucose monitoring kits available on the market today. Its unique design integrates sensors into a standard pair of glasses. These sensors collect bioelectric signals that are correlated to blood glucose levels. The results of the monitoring are then displayed on a smart phone or a companion device for people without smart phones.
Blood glucose is automatically measured and recorded with trends and fluctuations made plain to see, empowering users with insights into their own physiology. Physicians will have the ability to receive their patient’s biometrics digitally and offer diagnosis or treatment from anywhere in the world.
“Our goal is to achieve painless, consistent and more accurate readings for all individuals living with diabetes,” said Samuel Byrd, Co-Optical’s CEO. “This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way people manage diseases that require consistent blood sugar monitoring like diabetes, offering tremendous value to users and healthcare practitioners alike.”
Interdisciplinary skills lead to success
In the fall of 2014, Byrd had the initial idea of a non-invasive glucose monitor. He quickly examined his extended network to carefully select potential team members. The goal was to find a team of innovative and entrepreneurial-minded people who came from a diverse background of skills and majors.
Ultimately, Byrd (honors bioengineering), Zane Duke (honors bioengineering), Amber Graviet (honors chemical engineering), and Qassem Naim (’15 MBA) formed Co-Optical and collaboratively developed a business plan and prototype.
Growing the business
Co-Optical continues to work with Lee & Hayes out of Spokane, developing patent strategies and is in communication with various groups such as VentureWell and TREAT, who are helping to advance and best situate the company for SBIR/STTR funding. Over the next four to six months, Co Optical plans to use the funds earned in the business plan competitions to support the next phases of research including device refinement, FDA approvals, and production.
Co-Optical has also begun in-house production to accommodate clinical trials and is working to contract manufacturing that would ensure scalable production capacities.
In order to establish their initial customer base and develop a strong presence, the startup will execute multiple marketing campaigns simultaneously through outreach to key opinion leaders such as licensed physicians and specialists, who can help facilitate direct access to patients.
The team plans to set up and expand at an incubation space in Pullman. Co-Optical will be a charter member of the Crimson Commerce Club, a shared workspace for new ventures located in the old National Guard Armory building in downtown Pullman. There they will begin transitioning from a team of highly motivated entrepreneurial students to an operating company.
If interested in learning more about Co Optical or investing with the company, please contact Samuel Byrd, CEO, at Samuel.Byrd@co-optical.com.