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Life-changing ‘bionic pancreas’ for type 1 diabetes available in the US

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A ‘bionic pancreas’ that combines an insulin pump and automated dosing software has been approved by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for use by people living with type 1 diabetes in the US. 

The pocket-sized device, which is an insulin pump with a closed-loop system algorithm that can paired with a compatible Bluetooth-enabled continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device, is now available to people living with type 1 diabetes aged six years old and above. 

What is the iLET bionic pancreas? 

The iLET bionic pancreas is the work of Beta Bionics. It is made up of an insulin pump and software that decides how much insulin to deliver based on a person’s individual requirements.  

Although similar to other artificial pancreas systems, the big difference with the iLet is that it requires minimal input from the person using it.

It uses a closed-loop system to automatically deliver insulin and is calibrated by a person’s body weight, requiring no manual input or adjustments to the doses. 

When it comes to mealtimes, iLET uses a ‘meal announcement’ feature, with no need for precise carb counting. Users need to estimate the amount of carbs in their meal and input into the device as ‘small’, ‘medium’, or ‘large’.  

The device’s algorithm learns to respond to the user’s individual insulin needs and will independently decide on and order doses. 

It can also command increases, decreases, maintenance or the suspension of a user’s basal insulin rate, otherwise known as background insulin, and can order correction doses to lower blood glucose levels based on the information provided by a user’s compatible CGM device. 

Will it improve blood glucose management? 

In trials that took place last September, the iLET Bionic Pancreas was found to be effective in keeping blood sugar levels in target range in people living with type 1, with participants staying in their targeted blood glucose range for 11% longer than those using their normal pre-study diabetes tech.  

The device was also found to reduce HbA1c levels across the participants, regardless of their ethnic background, education, or income level. 

Beta Bionics says the device provides more flexibility in type 1 diabetes management and takes away the constant measuring of blood glucose levels, and calculations for insulin doses, that so many living with type 1 diabetes have to do each day. 

Nikki Joule, Senior Policy Manager at Diabetes UK, said: 

“It is hugely exciting to see the continued advances in closed loop technology and we look forward to more options becoming available in the future that offer greater choice for people with diabetes, helping them find a solution which work best for them.” 

When will it be available in the UK? 

The iLET Bionic Pancreas is currently only available in the US. Beta Bionics is currently seeking approval for the device in the UK, and this announcement is likely to signal a big step towards this life-changing treatment becoming available for people living with type 1 diabetes in the UK too.

Beta Bionics is also working on a dual hormone version of the iLet, which is designed to administer both insulin and glucagon.

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