Startup creates app to track diabetes

The New Haven-based biotech startup Applivate launched its first product this past week: ShugaTrak.

The smartphone application is designed to help parents with diabetic children monitor their kids’ blood glucose levels. Applivate founder and CEO John Fitzpatrick, a former researcher in the Yale School of Medicine’s neurobiology department, first presented the concept for the application at New Haven’s inaugural Startup Weekend competition in 2011.

Isamu Haya, another competition participant, asked to partner with Fitzpatrick, and the two then worked on the design for the remainder of the weekend – a collaboration that won them first place overall. Fitzpatrick and Haya spent the next two years building a business model around the app and refining their product to incorporate user concerns.

The app helps send a child’s diabetes blood glucose measurements to parents through text messages and emails. Fitzpatrick said the idea originated with his wife, who has Type 1 diabetes. After watching his wife manage her condition using an insulin pump and glucose meter to conduct blood sugar readings, Fitzpatrick saw an opportunity to produce a technology to harness the massive amounts of data these two devices collected.

“Seeing all the data that is being collected and also then considering recent developments with web and mobile technology, I thought there had to be a way to use the data those two are collecting to help people manage their diabetes,” Fitzpatrick said. “So, I went into Startup Weekend with this idea and came out with a business partner.”

Using the application, a child suffering from diabetes can take a blood glucose reading using a Bluetooth-equipped adapter, according to Fitzpatrick. This adapter then sends the reading to ShugaTrak’s online database, which then delivers text messages or emails to the child’s parents or other designated individuals.

Fitzpatrick said that he receives his wife’s readings right after she takes them so that he can know whether or not her blood sugar is at a reasonable level.

“That’s really important, because we have two young kids, and, if her blood sugar gets too low, she can pass out,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s imperative that we keep in touch in this way.”

He has initially targeted the product for the parents of children with diabetes so that when the children are away, parents can rest assured their kids are taking their blood sugar readings.

Fitzpatrick underscored the city of New Haven’s help in spurring the application’s launch. In fact, the city government organized a press conference last week to announce ShugaTrak’s premiere, where Mayor John Destefano Jr. and the Economic Development Administrator Kelly Murphy both delivered remarks about the startup and New Haven’s innovation economy at large.

“New Haven continues to be aptly described as Connecticut’s ‘City of Innovation,’ with the success of the New Haven Innovation Ecosystem, known as The Grid, and fast-growing entrepreneurial companies,” Murphy said at the press conference.

Applivate and ShugaTrak also greatly benefited from the resources of CTNEXT, Connecticut’s entrepreneur support network and mentorship program, and Connecticut Innovations, an organization that invests in promising startups.

After speaking with hundreds of people in the diabetes community thus far, Fitzpatrick said he and his company have received great feedback surrounding the application. He added that ShugaTrak is the first of many products Applivate plans to design to transform diabetes management using data.

Applivate was named Most Promising New Internet/New Media Company at the 2012 Connecticut Innovation Summit.

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