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The Enlite Sensor: Interview with an Innovator

By Amanda Sheldon

Managing Editor

Posted:  12/5/2013 4:00 PM

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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.

Comments

Rose Davis, R.N., CDE

Posted on Thu Dec 05 21:21:02 GMT 2013

As a healthcare professional, and CDE, I am very impressed with this new technology, particularly after attending the Healthcare Professional Training Seminar held in Portland, Maine on Oct 19, 2013. However, I am also a Mom of a 28 YO son with T1DM, diagnosed at age one, in 1986. He has worn an insulin pump since the age of 17 yo, and has been very successful with managing his T1DM. During recent years, he has been without health insurance, and struggles to maintain good BS control. It would be wonderful if Medtronic would truly live it's Mission Statement, and offer some sort of financial assistance, to those uninsured/underinsured people with diabetes, of which there are many. Perhaps a program where patients may obtain a refurbished pump at a greatly reduced cost, on a payment program ??? Diabetes does not discriminate, and the companies that develop medical technology to assist in furthering our patients and family members lives should not either. Advances in these life-saving medical technologies should not be limited to the elite and wealthy.

Despite all the obstacles our son faces, I am happy to report he continues to maintain an A1C of 6.8%, despite using very outdated Medtronic technology......just imagine what he could do with the latest and greatest ?
Thanks for your time.

Tom

Posted on Sat Dec 07 04:25:00 GMT 2013

What an interesting story. I hope you would publish more of these in-depth articles about the people behind the products we rely on and what they did to put these miraculous devices in our hands. I'm really looking forward to the next installment.

Joel

Posted on Sat Dec 07 04:41:33 GMT 2013

Hi Rose. I understand your concern and I thank you for reaching out. I want you to know that we do take our mission very seriously and we work hard to provide as many people as possible with access to our therapies. In addition to working with more than 600 insurers nationwide, we do have programs in place and offer financial assistance to those who qualify. If you’d like to email me your son’s name and contact information at loopblog@medtronic.com, I’d be happy to have a member of my team reach out to him to discuss his upgrade options.

Joel

Posted on Mon Dec 09 23:07:07 GMT 2013

Tom, thanks for the feedback. We are committed to delivering more of the content that our community wants to see, so keep checking back. Here are a couple blogs we have done in the past that you may find interesting, http://www.loop-blog.com/blog/A-Lifetime-of-Helping-to-Improve-the-Lives-of-Those-with-Diabetes---Kelly-Joy and http://www.loop-blog.com/blog/What-the-Customer-Experience-Means-to-Me---Jeff-Anglin

Paul Mentor

Posted on Tue Feb 11 15:21:57 GMT 2014

Hi Amanda,

Great little interview this. I am glad I have come across it. I currently train several companies if the UK with first aid courses etc. I have come across quite a few students recently who have diabetes (of various types) and I have discussed some of the methods they monitor there condition. I have never heard of anything like this 'Enlite' before. I will email them this article so they can have a look.

Cheers Again,

Paul

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