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January 13, 2014

Farmington startup developing saliva glucose test for diabetics

The iQuickIt saliva analyzer, shown above, allows diabetes patients to use salvia rather than blood samples to test their glucose levels.
Dr. David Mucci, founder, Quick LLC and emergency room physician, The Hospital for Central Connecticut
J. Scott Fox, president and CEO, Quick LLC

The world's 370 million diabetics may find living with their condition a lot less painful in the near future if a Connecticut startup takes off.

Farmington's Quick LLC is developing a new saliva-based technology that would take the finger-pricking out of glucose testing.

“Many people with diabetes have to test their glucose levels up to five times a day by drawing blood from their fingers,” said Dr. David Mucci, an emergency room physician at New Britain's The Hospital for Central Connecticut and one of Quick's founders. “Our technology will help take the pain out of testing blood-sugar.”

The “iQuickIt Saliva” technology is still in development and testing phases, according to J. Scott Fox, Quick's president and CEO, who helped establish the company in 2012. He said they've done several months of preliminary trials and are preparing for clinical trials in mid-2014.

Unlike traditional blood-based readings, iQuickIt users would insert a gum stick-sized “Draw Wick” — a patented technology — into their mouths to collect a small saliva sample, which is then inserted into a hand-held analyzer machine that produces a glucose reading within seconds.

The current market opportunity, Fox said, is huge — and growing.

“Today, there are 26 million Americans — one in every eight — living with diabetes,” he said. “And with obesity levels on the rise, that number is projected to increase to one in three Americans with diabetes by 2050.”

Currently, more than $10 billion a year is spent on glucose testing, Fox said, and it's an industry dominated by four major players: Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Labs, Bayer and Hoffman LaRoche.

“The blood-based screenings, which use a glucometer, have been the primary approach for the past 30 years,” Fox said, “but we've been able to connect the dots a bit differently.”

The reality, said Mucci, is that studies linking saliva and glucose are not new, but that technology has caught up with the science.

“The software systems and data processing [for our saliva analyzer] are more sophisticated and powerful today than we could have imagined 20 years ago,” Mucci said. He noted that the initial prototype for the analyzer was the size of a shoebox — dimensions which have been miniaturized in each successive phase.

To fund the endeavor, the company has principally relied on investments from its four co-founders and an angel investor, but also expanded its fundraising efforts through an online crowd sourcing campaign in November and December, which raised over $4,000 through smaller donations.

Fox knows, however, it will take significant capital to bring the iQuickIt to market, but the company must prove the product's effectiveness before it can seek funding from diabetes organizations or the state of Connecticut. “Just to get iQuickIt through the Federal Drug Administration [FDA] approval process, we anticipate will cost nearly $1 million,” he said.

To prepare for that process, Mucci said, the company will put its product through rigorous clinical trials, led by Dr. William Petit and hiring consultants to help navigate the FDA requirements.

“That's our biggest challenge,” said Mucci.

But if iQuickIt makes the grade with the FDA, Fox anticipates the product will be on the market within 18 months to two years and he's already hearing from excited would-be consumers. “We were at a conference to demonstrate our product, and people [with diabetes] were showing us their fingers,” Fox recalled. “They were asking when the product would be ready.”

Mucci understands the anticipation. Some diabetics, he noted, prick their fingers more than 1,800 times per year in managing their diabetes. “Because it hurts, sometimes people don't test [their glucose level] as often as they should and that can be dangerous.”

As a doctor, Mucci said, he is excited about iQuickIt's ability to help diabetic patients avoid the daily pain of finger pricks.

“To have the opportunity to make even a little impact in a stranger's life in a meaningful way, to improve the way of doing something, that's what makes this endeavor special,” he said.

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