LAWRENCE – Ask anyone with diabetes, and they'll tell you it's among the most challenging and frustrating diseases to manage.
But a team of University of Kansas faculty and students will soon be working to make diabetes management easier – and they'll partner with industry leader Bayer HealthCare to do it.
Beginning this fall, students in KU's new Advanced Design Studies 560 class will work to develop applications for Bayer's Contour USB blood glucose meter, a portable diabetes management device and the first monitor to feature plug-in diabetes management software.
Under the direction of Greg Thomas, professor of design and director of the Center for Design Research (CDR) at KU, the class will develop new interactive content and a customizable user interface for the disease management software that comes with the Contour USB. The class will also evaluate the product's overall usability and present its findings to Bayer later in the year.
"It's a really cool device that's helping a lot of people with diabetes manage their health," Thomas said. "We're thrilled to have this opportunity to improve it. The fact that a company like Bayer wants to partner with us says a lot about the Center for Design Research and the students and faculty here at KU."
The Contour USB meter looks similar to a standard flash drive but also has a port where patients can insert blood test strips, as well as an OLED display that announces the patient's glucose level. The device plugs into the patient's computer and inputs glucose readings into Bayer's diabetes management software program, Glucofacts Deluxe, which comes preloaded on the device. From there, Glucofacts Deluxe allows users to track, chart and analyze their blood results.
Approximately 179,000 Kansans over the age of 18 have been diagnosed with diabetes. That represents 8.4 percent of the state's adult population and a 42 percent growth in the prevalence of diabetes over the past decade, according to a 2011 report by the Kansas Diabetes Action Council. Nationally, 25.8 million children and adults – 8.3 percent of the population – have diabetes.
"Thousands of Kansans are dealing with diabetes," Thomas said. "By working with Bayer on this type of product research and development, we're helping everyday people deal with this disease and live happier, healthier lives."
The Bayer partnership is the latest success for the CDR, which was launched in 2011 to foster interdisciplinary collaboration across KU in the area of smart technology and consumer products. The CDR has been especially focused on the areas of distracted driving and automobile safety, as well as wireless technologies that impact health and wellness. Last week, the CDR announced a partnership with Voice Assist, a leading voice-command service company, on technologies designed to mitigate distracted driving. The CDR has also been in talks with Garmin, Ford Motor Company and Audi regarding similar partnerships.
KU for years has been a leader in diabetes treatment and research. In 2007, the university launched the KU Diabetes Institute at the KU Medical Center. Earlier this year, institute began a new program to offer diabetes management help for rural Kansans.