The Enlite Sensor: Interview with an Innovator
One of the most fulfilling parts of my job is the opportunity to collaborate on projects, brush shoulders in the hallway with people who I consider extremely smart, inspirational, and committed to the work they do for people with diabetes. Eric Larson, a Mechanical Engineering Manager for Sensor and Research Development, is NO exception! Eric was a monumental force behind the brand new Enlite sensor and its important components like the Enlite serter. So, I asked him about his role here and his involvement in the product development.
Q. Hi Eric! Can you tell us about how you came to work at Medtronic?
A. I started at Medtronic as an intern in 2005 while pursuing my engineering degree. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to work on a lot of interesting projects such as Enlite, the mySentry Remote Glucose Monitor, and the MiniLink transmitter and our professional CGM product, iPro.
Q. What keeps you motivated to work in the field of helping people with diabetes?
A. I have been fortunate to meet a lot of different individuals that are affected by diabetes while working at Medtronic - from patients, to caregivers and physicians alike. The collective experience that they have shared with me has been what I use as an inspiration to continuously improve our products. On a more personal note, there is a history of type 1 diabetes in my family, so it is possible that the products I work on will benefit those closest to me.
Q. What is your favorite part of your job?
A. I am a designer at heart so I really enjoy making things from scratch. I especially like to work on plastic mechanisms such as the Enlite Serter. The challenge is not only how to design the part so it works reliably, but also that it can be molded in plastic and made at the quantities we need them.
Q. What was your involvement with the development of the MiniMed 530G with Enlite system?
A. From concept through reliability testing, I was the design engineer responsible for the majority of mechanical components of Enlite. This includes the sensor and the sensor needle, as well as the packaging and assembly.
Q. Can you tell us about the Enlite sensor?
A. Enlite is a continuous glucose sensor that is inserted at 90 degree angle (perpendicular) to the skin. The main goals for Enlite were to improve sensor performance; extend the wear to 6 days; reduce pain during insertion and throughout wear; and lessen the number of steps needed to insert a sensor. Sensor performance was improved in many different ways, but most notably by making significant changes to the design of the needle.
Q. The serter was one of the biggest improvements; can you tell us more about what makes it different from other serters Medtronic has offered?
A. The features that make the serter unique are all related to reducing pain, and making it easier to use. In conjunction with the loading platform and retractable needle hub, the Enlite Serter was designed to minimize the likeliness that the person with diabetes would see the needle. Emphasis was placed on the speed and force that is used to insert the sensor. We have a high speed camera that enabled us to view the insertion in slow-motion and test out different ideas. We also conducted a lot of tests on real people to see what they thought. The shape of the serter is intended to be simple to hold and use, and was designed with one single large button to make insertion easier.
Q. Tell me, why is the button on the Enlite serter green?
A. Surprisingly, color choices are a big discussion point around the office! We wanted to have an interesting color that made it easy to identify the button without making it appear like a toy. We actually had a ballot box for employees to vote on the color they preferred the most. There were a few runner-ups, so be sure to keep an eye out for more funky button colors on our future devices!
Q. Throughout the process of developing the Enlite and the serter, what were some of the challenges your team faced?
A. The nature of developing a continuous glucose sensor is that you will spend a lot of time optimizing your parameters, and the task can be mind boggling due to the number of design tradeoffs. Nothing is more exemplary of this fact than the sensor layout and chemistry development; there are literally thousands of ‘knobs’ that you can turn to fine tune the sensor’s performance characteristics. The processes that we use to manufacture the sensor also needed to be stable enough to support continuous manufacturing. There were a lot of contributions of many others who were involved in the Enlite sensor and the team was dedicated throughout the project.
Q. What does the MiniMed 530G with Enlite mean to you?
A. From an engineering standpoint, it is very exciting to be working in the forefront of diabetes care where we are continuously working towards a fully automated artificial pancreas.
Editors note: To learn more about the Enlite sensor, visit www.medtronicdiabetes.com/treatment-and-products/enlite-sensor.
Important Safety Information
Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems. MiniMed 530G with Enlite is intended for the delivery of insulin and continuous glucose monitoring for the management of diabetes mellitus by persons 16 years of age or older who require insulin.
Pump therapy is not recommended for people who are unwilling or unable to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day. Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.
The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory fingerstick is required prior to making adjustments to diabetes therapy. MiniMed 530G with Enlite is not intended to be used directly for preventing or treating hypoglycemia but to suspend insulin delivery when the user is unable to respond to the Threshold Suspend alarm and take measures to prevent or treat hypoglycemia themselves.
Please visit www.medtronicdiabetes.com/importantsafetyinformation for more details.