President & CEO
Ever since his now 19-year-old son David developed type 1 diabetes at 11 months of age, Ed D. has been committed to creating and integrating closed-loop blood-glucose control technologies with a vision of building a bionic pancreas by the time his son headed off to college. Between 2005 and 2008, he and his PhD student, Firas El-Khatib, began conducting experiments in diabetic pigs in his laboratory at Boston University testing an early laptop-version of their bionic pancreas system. They then progressed with their clinical collaborators at the Massachusetts General Hospital to conduct over four years in-patient trials in adults and adolescents with T1D. Over the past five years, his team at Boston University, along with his clinical collaborators, have conducted over a dozen outpatient and home-use clinical trials in adults and children with type 1 diabetes testing a mobile version of their bionic pancreas, which ran on an iPhone. This effort ultimately led to the development of the iLet bionic pancreas system. In 2015, Ed and his wife Toby Milgrome, along with Firas El-Khatib and Ed and Serafina Raskin, founded Beta Bionics, Inc. as a Massachusetts public benefit corporation with the goal of bringing the iLet through final clinical trials, regulatory approval and into the hands of people with type 1 diabetes. Ed Damiano is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University and has held that role since 2004. He is also President and CEO of Beta Bionics. His expertise and training are in the areas of mechanical and biomedical engineering and applied mathematics.
What drew you to work in the diabetes industry?
I was a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois when my infant son, David, developed type 1-diabetes. It was clear to me then that the tools available for managing type 1 diabetes were were not up to the task. While I did not have the skill sets to engineer a biological cure to type 1 diabetes, I did think I could use my expertise to take on the problem of automating blood-glucose control in people with type 1 diabetes. Dr. Firas El-Khatib (who was then a PhD student and now holds dual roles as a senior research scientist in my laboratory at Boston University and is Vice President of Autonomous Systems at Beta Bionics), was there when I received the news of my son’s diagnosis. Not long afterwards, Firas turned his PhD research onto the problem of developing and testing mathematical algorithms that automate the dosing of insulin and glucagon in the bionic pancreas. We are extremely proud that as a result of our years of collective effort, we have generated tangible clinical data, we have published those results in esteemed, peer-reviewed, medical journals (including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet), and we have made meaningful progress in moving the technology from the research environment to a commercial setting.
Why did you choose to form Beta Bionics?
In the fall of 2015, I co-founded Beta Bionics as a Massachusetts public benefit corporation with Firas El-Khatib, my wife Toby Milgrome (a pediatrician), and a husband-and-wife team, Ed Raskin and Serafina Raskin (lawyers and parents to a son with T1D). As a public benefit corporation and Certified B Corp – perhaps the first of its kind in the medical device industry – we have built an organization around the uncommon principle that our company is, first and foremost, dedicated to acting in the best possible interest of the T1D community. This means that every board decision, and every management action, is made with this commitment as our guiding principle. As a benefit corporation, we are obliged to do this, and we are protected under Massachusetts law to execute our business model to meet that obligation – even if those decisions and those actions sometimes supersede opportunities to return equity to shareholders. Of course we believe that such a commitment, coupled with effective execution, will necessarily and naturally lead to the best medical technology platform that the modern world can offer – to a technology that everyone covets, and to an inherently sustainable business model.
What is the most rewarding part about working at Beta Bionics?
Each member of the team at Beta Bionics has either a personal connection with diabetes, or has committed years of their professional careers to the diabetes field. Each member of this diverse, talented, and resourceful team is personally committed to doing everything uder their influence to improve the lives of people living with T1D. I am humbled by the enthusiasm and dedication that they demonstrate to the company’s mission on a daily basis. It is an honor and priviledge to have them as colleagues.