A multidisciplinary team from the University of Bath has been shortlisted in the Health category in this year’s Emerging Technologies Competition run by the Royal Society of Chemistry, in recognition of their creation of a non-invasive wearable device that monitors glucose levels in diabetics.

The Royal Society initiative invites entries from early-stage companies and academic entrepreneurs who are keen to commercialise their technologies to make a positive impact on society.

The team from Bath is fronted by Dr Adelina Ilie (Physics Department), Professor Richard Guy (Pharmacy and Pharmacology), and early-career researcher Dr Luca Lipani (working across both departments). The scientists will now pitch their technology to a judging panel of industry heavyweights at the live final on June 29 and 30.

The researchers’ glucose-monitoring system is designed to be worn as a patch. The technology allows non-insulin-dependent diabetics and pre-diabetics to monitor their blood-sugar levels around the clock. The device extracts glucose through the skin, enabling patients to avoid the poorly tolerated finger-prick blood test. Readings are transmitted wirelessly to a mobile phone.

The monitor uses a small electric current to painlessly extract a small volume of interstitial fluid from the skin, in a highly controlled manner. Glucose, which is present in the fluid, leaves the body via preferential pathways defined by the hair follicles. What makes this approach unique is that there is no need to insert a needle either for the placement of a glucose sensor or for calibration purposes. The research was first described in a widely cited publication in Nature Nanotechnology.

Dr Ilie said: “The technology is non-invasive, glucose-specific, needle-free (and therefore calibration-free), discomfort-free, low cost, wearable in its patch format and discreet. This makes it particularly appealing to Type 2 and pre-diabetics. No such technology currently exists on the market.”

Professor Guy said: “Our aim is to enable a paradigm shift in both the healthcare and wellbeing sectors. With respect to the target diabetes populations, the availability of our device will shift the focus from treatment to prevention, and drive a significant reduction in healthcare costs.”

Dr Lipani is currently enrolled in the Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) Programme, sponsored by Innovate UK. This programme is designed to move ideas and innovation out of labs and into the marketplace. He said: “The participation in the ICURe is extremely beneficial for an Early Career Researcher like me. Its programme allows me to rapidly evolve my entrepreneurial skills which, coupled with my natural inclination for innovation, will enrich the entrepreneurial vision required to deliver our technology to the next level, which will help our strategy to take the technology to market.”

Philip Brown, head of Technology Transfer at the University of Bath, said: "Research and Innovation Services is excited about this new technology and the benefits it could bring to diabetic patients. We have filed a patent application on the technology and are actively working with the scientific team to commercialise the PixelArray technology and bring it to market.”