Google Patents Needle-Free Blood Draw Technology

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In September, Google’s Life Sciences Division announced that it would be launching a major research and development initiative aimed at improving diabetes care through technology. At that time, Google had already made digital health headlines when it unveiled a pair of contact lenses that double as a continuous glucose monitor. Google’s contact lenses have since been licensed to Novartis for commercialization, and will likely be the first non-invasive glucose monitor available to diabetics in the US. This advance in non-invasive glucose monitoring is one that medical device firms had already spent millions in R&D efforts trying to accomplish, but where they failed, Google prevailed. Now, with credibility and respect firmly in its court, pharmaceutical companies are lining up to ink R&D deals with Google. The company has partnered with DexCom to miniaturize traditional continuous glucose monitors, and Sanofi in a multi-year initiative focused on moving glucose meters and insulin pens into the 21st century by connecting them to a cloud-based disease management platform.

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Last week, Google was issued a patent for yet another potentially game-changing technology developed by its diabetes team. Like all Google patents, it’s important to keep in mind that Google owns patents on thousands of technologies, some of which move through the development pipeline and become commercial products, while others never leave the lab. Its newest invention is a needle-free method of drawing blood. Google has invented a system that uses gas propulsi0n to fire a small micro-particle down a tube and into the tip of a user’s finger. The tube itself is negatively pressurized, which causes it to immediately draw a drop of blood into the chamber once the skin has been penetrated. The real-world question that Google’s patent leaves unanswered is how it compares to a traditional needle from a pain perspective. Diabetes tends to have poor disease management adherence and many suggest that it is because users are required to endure daily finger pricks, which can be painful. A new method of measuring glucose would certainly benefit diabetics, but for it to be worth the effort of rolling out a new technology, the average pain score associated with drawing blood this way will need to be significantly lower than using a traditional needle.

Google’s patent goes on to indicate that the technology could be incorporated into a lancet-shaped device, or it could be built into a wrist-worn medical device that could be programmed to automatically check glucose levels at a certain frequency.


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