Development of Cygnus Inc.'s glucose monitoring device wasenhanced by a deal with Becton Dickinson and Co. that's potentiallyworth $20 million.

Cygnus is developing the GlucoWatch, a device worn like awristwatch that is designed to provide continuous and automaticmonitoring of glucose. The product uses a low level of electrocurrent,or electroosmosis, to extract glucose molecules through intact skinand onto a disposable pad worn beneath the device.

The glucose triggers a reaction with a reagent in the pad, causing anemission of electrons that's measured by a biosensor. A chip equatesthe level of electron emission to a concentration of the glucose in apatient's blood. Glucose readings, updated every 30 minutes, aredisplayed on the watch at the push of a button.

Becton Dickinson, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., will pay Cygnus up-frontand milestone fees of up to $20 million for exclusive worldwiderights excluding Japan and Korea. Specific terms weren't disclosed.Cygnus, of Redwood City, Calif., also will receive a percentage ofprofits. Becton Dickinson already is a large player in the diabetesmarket through the sales of insulin syringes.

Early trials of a prototype model showed the GlucoWatch was able toextract glucose painlessly, track high and low glucose levels, andachieve accuracy and reproducibility comparable to approved finger-prick tests, said Andrea Sobel, Cygnus' manager, corporatecommunications. "The results confirmed glucose collected non-invasively, through the skin, correlates to the concentration ofglucose in the blood," she said.

The GlucoWatch is the flip side of most of what Cygnus is doing.The company's development primarily involves use of transdermalpatches to deliver drugs through the skin. Instead, this product pullsglucose through the skin.

The prototype study established feasibility of the product, Sobel said,adding that optimization of the individual components is being donebefore the start of further human tests. Cygnus said the developmentand regulatory procedures could be completed by the end of 1997,with launch the following year.

A non-invasive glucose monitoring device would be a welcomeproduct for diabetics, who now must monitor blood sugar levels viablood taken from a prick of the finger. n

-- Jim Shrine

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.