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Seoul startup collaborates with MIT on Raman glucose monitor

23 Aug 2023

Developmental wearable technology is said to perform better than existing non-invasive products.

Apollon, a startup company in Seoul, Korea, developing wearable medical devices based on Raman spectroscopy, has agreed a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aimed at delivering a new continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

The two-year project will include clinical trials of the device, with Apollon aiming to complete commercialization and US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the wearable technology within five years.

MIT professor Peter So will lead the collaboration alongside spectroscopy researcher Jeon Woong Kang, with Apollon’s Youngkyu Kim joining them as a visiting scientist.

Apollon CEO Aram Hong, who co-founded the company in 2021, said in a release announcing the collaboration: “Signing a joint research agreement with MIT, one of the world's leading universities in this field, is extremely uncommon for a Korean startup, and I believe it is an encouraging step towards the development of the next-generation CGM.”

Although continuous monitoring of blood sugar levels with such a device has long been envisaged, and would offer many advantages over the traditional needle-prick approach, no such products have received FDA approval.

But Apollon cites results in a 2020 paper published by Kang and others in the journal Science Advances as a key indication supporting the idea of needle-free glucose monitoring with an optical device.

Animal experiments
The Kang paper claimed to demonstrate the first direct observation of glucose Raman peaks from skin in vivo, although it was based on experiments with live pigs, rather than people.

For that effort, the team built a portable Raman spectroscopy instrument around an 830 nm diode laser and an imaging spectrograph and CCD from Princeton Instruments.

Laser illumination of the pigs’ ears realized three glucose fingerprint bands at 911, 1060, and 1125 cm−1, and one band at 1450 cm−1 indicative of proteins and lipids found in pig skin.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, Apollon says that the work in that paper showed a pre-clinical error rate of only 6.6 per cent, which was said to exceed the performance of existing CGM products.

“This collaborative research [with MIT] is the first attempt to apply these findings to the human body, and aims to make the device small enough to be attached to the body,” the startup added.

Hong, a medical technology entrepreneur, co-founded Apollon with Professor Jun Ki Kim and Dr. Miyeon Jue, both from the Asan Medical Center, and who serve as the firm’s scientific advisor and CTO, respectively.

A separate collaboration involving Trumpf and RSP Systems is working on a similar Raman device, although it will feature VCSELs made by the German laser company.

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