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Research on blood glucose meters

Professor Anthony Turner

A urine test and a science experiment. That’s what checking blood sugar levels involved 50 years ago.

Now it takes a few seconds and can be done anywhere.  

We made checking blood sugars simple

In the 1980s, we supported Professor Anthony Turner, now an Emeritus Professor of Cranfield University in England, to take blood sugar testing technology available in the lab into people’s pockets.  

By 1987, Professor Turner's work with colleagues led to the launch of the world’s first handheld blood glucose meter, using new electrochemical technology. 

It changed how people living with diabetes manage their condition, allowing people to see their blood sugar levels in a few seconds, anywhere, anytime.  

Professor Turner said: 


“The realisation of how much our work helped people, and the number of people it has helped, stayed with me for the rest of my career. It’s always a delight to meet people using our technology and the subsequent improved versions of it.

“My Diabetes UK funding allowed me to establish a world-leading team and drive the entire field forward,” he explains.

George Hughes has lived with type 1 diabetes for 74 years. He said: 

“For me, the biggest advance in diabetes care came in 1989. I was working with a colleague who also had type 1 and he was tinkering with a gadget. It was a blood glucose meter.  Really quickly he had a result on a test strip.

"At lunchtime, my first stop was a pharmacy where I bought one for around £20. It was worth every penny. It was a great help to be able to check my sugars regularly. Today I use a Freestyle Libre, which was another big change.”

Looking to the future

George Hughes, who lives with type 1 diabetes

Our research continues to drive forward innovations in diabetes technology.  

In 2018, we funded the world’s first clinical trial of Flash glucose monitoring. Using a sensor attached to the skin, this technology lets people see what their sugar levels are doing minute-by-minute and alerts them when they’re too high or low. All without having to prick their fingers.   

The results confirmed that Flash radically improves blood sugar levels and quality of life for people living with type 1 diabetes.   

New NHS guidance soon followed, recommending Flash or continuous glucose monitors (CGM), for everyone with type 1 and some people with type 2 diabetes.   

In 2023, 90% of people with type 1 diabetes in the UK are now using this next-generation blood sugar monitoring technology.   

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