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Sue Lani Madsen: Taking diabetes treatment into his own hands

Two years ago, Kris Maynard had an idea and a patent pending. Two months from now his patented product will be on the market and his dreams are bigger. He wants to break Big Pharma’s monopoly on insulin production.

Maynard is the CEO and founder of Glucose Revival, manufacturing the ThrivePro Necklace for anyone managing insulin-dependent diabetes.

It started as a personal solution to return to work and run Bloomsday. Maynard is a firefighter and emergency medical technician at Fairchild Air Force Base living with diabetes.

“I lost my dream job for a year and a half, because I was a hazard to the other firefighters,” he said. Exertion and stress affect the balance between sugar and insulin, rapidly sending the body into hypoglycemic shock and collapse.

Maynard got back on the job after his doctor recommended an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) for tighter control. CGM alerts the wearer to a drop in blood sugar levels with real-time tracking. The solution to hypoglycemia is simple: Just add sugar. Delivering sugar quickly is the challenge, especially for anyone with an active lifestyle.

Running Bloomsday with a bottle of juice in hand wasn’t practical, as Maynard found out in 2014. He’d dropped the juice, and had to call his wife, Paula, a few miles later to meet him with a sugar boost. They developed an early prototype for the ThrivePro Necklace by combining drinking straws with the highly concentrated glucose paste used by first responders.

Maynard wasn’t looking to start a business, he just wanted something to use for his own protection when he went running solo. His endocrinologist spotted the necklace and gave him a nudge to take it to the next level, telling him it was a silly idea that looked like it could work.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The body produces antibodies against the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, eventually destroying all or most of the ability to produce natural insulin. It usually, but not always, develops in childhood or young adulthood. Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity and lack of exercise. “People living with Type 1 have to manage diabetes to fit their lifestyle; Type 2 means managing lifestyle to fit the disease,” according to Dr. Timothy Gardner, internist with Northside Internal Medicine.

Insulin pumps are a critical tool to reduce overshooting the safe blood sugar range, and can be programmed to deliver doses appropriate for time of day and level of activity. “It’s not a pancreas, but it’s the closest thing we’ve got,” Gardner said. “The quicker you can get a kid onto the pump, the better the disease is managed.” Uncontrolled diabetes leads to serious circulatory, vision and peripheral nerve damage.

Hypoglycemia is the most common diabetic emergency for the insulin-dependent population, and requires action in minutes. Anyone with an active lifestyle is the target market for the ThrivePro Necklace. It provides autonomy and a safe self-rescue option usable even by children.

Sheri Colberg, professor emerita at Old Dominion University, is an exercise physiologist and consultant to top-tier athletes competing with diabetes. Colberg polled 300 athletes and found 75 percent would choose the instant feedback of CGM for quick glucose treatment over the convenience of an insulin pump, if they had to choose. She calls CGM and Glucose Revival “a good combination.”

To keep costs down for consumers, the ThrivePro Necklace will be sold directly through its website at GlucoseRevival.com and on Amazon. Managing diabetes and its impacts is why diabetics pay 2 1/2 times more than the average American for health care, Maynard said.

He cited a 240 percent rise in the cost of insulin over the past decade as the reason behind his expanded vision.

“We want to build this business big and take over the insulin business,” he said. “People are paying up to $300 per vial. Nobody has taken control of costs. Nobody asked to be a diabetic.”

Maynard didn’t ask for diabetes, but he’s not letting the disease control him. Glucose Revival is researching the next generation of its products, integrating all the tools available for diabetes control. And in two more years, maybe he’ll be taking over the insulin market.