This essay appears in today's edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.
It is often the simple fixes (and fixers) that make all the difference in the world: the genius who came up with giving out numbers to deli customers rather than having them mob the counter; assigned seating in movie theaters; E-ZPass.
Indeed, for all the excitement over paradigm-shifting technologies in healthcare and medicine—gene-editing through CRISPR, virtual reality surgical training—it seems we are seeing more and more examples of people solving age-old problems through a stroke of ingenuity. With the proverbial popsicle stick and chewing gum, that is.
And sometimes, the two are combined: a bold new technology is coupled with a strikingly simple, intuitive innovation. That has been my initial impression of a new drug-delivery system, called the Medici, which is made by Intarcia Therapeutics. The Medici is an osmotic pump about the size of a matchstick, which—in a procedure that takes about a minute or so to perform—is inserted under the skin. From there, its makers claim, the pump delivers medicine in a steady-state dose for several months (and even up to a year).
Intarcia has completed several late-stage clinical trials in which it uses the pump to deliver a glucose-controlling drug continuously for months—an idea, that if successful (and approved by the FDA) could significantly help patients with type 2 diabetes, fewer than half of whom maintain the recommended glycemic levels. One big reason why is that it’s often hard to adhere to rigorous schedules for administering medicine.
Intarcia is expected to seek a new drug application for the product from the FDA soon, says Christine Aylward, managing director at Foresite Capital Management, which has backed the company. I’m always leery of writing about medicines and procedures that are still in the experimental stage—so assume all the normal qualifiers and caveats here. But what’s worth noting is that somebody set out in this case not just to make a new drug but to solve a problem that often consumes the lives of diabetes patients. Move over E-ZPass.