Breaking Through Advancing Medicine by Way of Research


Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Sumita Pennathur


The work  

Portrait of Sumita Pennathur in her labDriven by her daughter’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis, Sumita Pennathur is steadfastly focused on developing solutions to help diabetes patients better manage their condition. Among them: a disposable patch for insulin delivery and a cannula that can remove preservatives known to be toxic from insulin before it enters the body. With a major grant — the Visionary Award — from the American Diabetes Association, she and her team have been successful on both fronts. Using the science of nonlinear electrokinetic flow, the Pennathur Lab was able to innovate a novel mechanism to pump insulin at very precise volumes and flow rates at a very small scale. Based on their results, in May 2023 they were awarded a grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to help move their proof of- concept device into the prototype phase. By mimicking chemistries used in nature to arrest passivation, the group also innovated a method to remove phenol and metacresol within the cannula itself – as those excipients are important for stabilizing insulin in the reservoir, but can be toxic to the patient.




The why  

a graduate student holds a prototype sensor“I was born into an immigrant family where my parents had an unbelievable work ethic, one I very much respected. In response, I have always worked incredibly hard to achieve. After becoming a professor and having kids, I shifted my efforts into trying to help the quality of life of people. Specifically, when my third child died in the hospital at 28 weeks, I really felt the pain of losing a life, and started focusing on tangible and translational med tech. A year later when my second child was diagnosed with diabetes, I knew I had to put 1,000% effort into making sure she stays alive and well. It gives me amazing motivation every day.” — Sumita Pennathur



The impact  

a graduate student pours liquid into a beakerMore than 37 million Americans — about one in 10 — have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide that figure has surged to nearly half a billion. For Type 1 diabetics whose bodies don’t make insulin, or for Type 2 patients whose bodies don’t use insulin well, significant advancements in insulin delivery are crucial to quality of life.







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