A team of researchers from UCSB and the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute were recently selected from a pool of 128 entrants to receive the 2nd Annual Wyss Institute IEEE EMBS Award for Translational Research for their work on the artificial pancreas.

Three researchers from UCSB, Dr. Frank Doyle, Dr. Eyal Dassau and Dr. Howard Zisser, presented their work on behalf of the entire UCSB-Sansum group. The Wyss Institute recognized their work on the development of an artificial pancreas system, which would help automatically control the blood sugar of a person with Type 1 diabetes. The system works mainly with equipment that is already readily available to the public, such as insulin pumps and blood glucose sensors. The critical breakthrough in their research has been in the creation of an algorithm that provides the brains for the system.

While the bulk of the testing has been conducted within a clinic under very carefully controlled conditions, the team is starting to get into outpatient trials, with the subjects staying in a hotel under a monitored situation but outside of a hospital or clinic. These trials have been yielding positive results, but more testing will be required before the system is commercialized and distributed.

According to Doyle, a professor in the UCSB chemical engineering department and leader of the UCSB section of the researchers, the final goal of the project is to build an automated system that is able to regulate and keep patients’ blood sugar where it needs to be.

Doyle and his team have been working on this system for 20 years and on the clinical dimension of the system at UCSB for an entire decade.

The biggest hurdle in the group’s research has been compensating for the variability of the human body, Doyle said. The scientists have been working hard at pushing the system’s capabilities beyond simply managing the blood-glucose of someone with well-controlled habits, and are moving towards being able to help someone much less disciplined who eats and sleeps irregular amounts at random times.

Entries were submitted from all fields of biomedical engineering, with the focus being translating research for a medical application ‘from bench to bedside,’ taking a concept that is under development and bringing it closer to commercialization. Doyle said that the success of the project so far is due to a strong team effort.

“To emerge as an award winner in this was tremendously humbling. The award is a great distinction for the team,” Doyle said.