Changing scope in treatment of diabetes patientsNJIT student pursuing pain-free, noninvasive device for blood tests
Though Kevin Ly grew up surfing the stock market with his aerospace engineer dad in West Orange, he chose to major in biology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and put his dream of becoming a doctor ahead of his ambitions to create a business. But when an entrepreneurship program in the Albert Dorman Honors College gave him the chance to design a device that could incorporate both aspirations, he considered putting medical school on hold.
“My first entrepreneurial experience was making business cards for friends in high school. But I always wanted to create a business of some sort that transitioned to service,” Ly, 19, said. “People say biology majors take the easy way out, but the honors program adds a lot of business and engineering depth to it. People experienced in business know what employers are looking for. Hospitals are businesses, too, and it’s important for me to know what they’re looking for from technology.”
After enrolling in NJIT’s Interdisciplinary Design Studio program, Ly — a second-year student at the university — applied his scientific knowledge of diseases to existing university-funded research in optical imaging for biomedical applications, and developed a noninvasive glucose-monitoring device for diabetics.
“Right now, a person with Type I diabetes has to prick their finger at least twice a day. The more you prick, the more sensitive you become, and it creates a pain that can never go away,” Ly said. “This device eliminates the need for needles while giving you continuous monitoring.”
Ly said when he completes the prototype this summer, the device — which clips onto the ear and measures glucose levels with infrared light — could be made small enough to “act and look like an earring.”
Thinking like a physician, Ly said his device “gives you a real profile of a patient and their eating habits, creating a personalized approach between a doctor and a patient,” and he wants to eventually engineer a method to transfer real-time data from the device to a patient’s medical record or a doctor’s cell phone.
With a $3,000 fellowship from Capital One Bank, Ly will spend the summer in NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center to develop a market-ready prototype alongside 90 early-stage companies, several of which were launched by NJIT alumni. Ly hopes to test the completed device in the European market, since there’s a long wait time and at least $1 million in costs for approval from U.S. regulators, he said.
“Even if I could build a company with this device, I think I would want to become a doctor first and then see what happens,” Ly said. “But there are a lot of parallels between business and medicine, like treating patients like clients. If this doesn’t work out, I think the business experience will help me become a better doctor.”
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