Apple has developed a proof-of-concept device for needle-free blood glucose monitoring, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Apple’s device would use light to measure glucose levels in interstitial fluid, just below the skin, according to the report. Engineers are developing a prototype device about the size of an iPhone that can be strapped to the bicep, but it would ultimately need to be shrunk down, with the goal of incorporating it into the Apple Watch, the report added.
The company had worked with Rockley Photonics Holdings to develop the chips and sensors for the device, but Rockley went bankrupt last month. Apple has shifted to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to make the main chip for the device, Bloomberg wrote.
Apple envisions the technology being used to warn people if they’re prediabetic, with the goal of helping them avoid developing Type 2 diabetes, according to the Bloomberg report. That sets it apart from continuous glucose monitors currently on the market that are primarily used by people who have Type 1 diabetes, though coverage of the devices for Type 2 diabetes could expand this year.
While Dexcom’s stock fell 1.9% after the report, analysts said the technology currently doesn’t pose a threat to CGMs.
“We don’t view this as a threat to the FDA regulated CGMs and pumps currently available given the barriers to entry from a regulatory and manufacturing standpoint as well as what's likely going to be a limited patient pool, as most doctors will still recommend CGMs for the majority of Type 2 patients, especially as the out-of-pocket costs continue to decline,” J.P. Morgan analyst Robbie Marcus wrote in a research note on Wednesday.
“[Apple] appears to be targeting prediabetics or patients with earlier-stage diabetes, where we believe accuracy may be less important versus trend data,” William Blair analyst Margaret Kaczor wrote in a research note. “While metabolic health is a target market over the long term for Dexcom and Abbott, we view it as still several years away and market expansive.”
Apple also will need data to prove its device works, analysts said.
In the 12 years that the project has been in development, it “has yet to show any meaningful clinical data,” Marcus wrote.
So far, it seems that the device has been tested in people with prediabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and volunteers without diabetes, Kaczor said. “In our experience, accuracy is one of the largest determinants for success and would be an indicator for which population this technology could prove useful for,” she added.
“We would not ignore the trend of multi-function tools like the Apple Watch impacting demand for single-function tools over time,” Kaczor said, adding that the project seems to pose little risk to Dexcom in the near term.
An Apple spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment about the report at the time of publication.