Get to know us – Katarina Braune

Today, Katarina, one of the most charming #WomenInScience will tell us a bit about herself and her ambitions.

Hi! I am Katarina, MD and researcher at Charité University Medicine Berlin, Germany, and living with T1D for 19+ years.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a kid, and have always been an early adopter when it comes to new technologies – I was one of the first Paediatric patients with an insulin pump at the time. Later, when CGM was introduced to the market, it was all I asked my parents for as birthday and Christmas presents. When I first read about Looping in 2017, I knew immediately that I had to try it, but also that I want to contribute to further improve it. DIY Looping has certainly turned my world upside down (in the best way possible).

“Do-it-Yourself” is not “Do-it-Alone”

The diabetes online community has helped me to deal with my own diagnosis and has turned life with diabetes into something beautiful and meaningful. Meeting knowledgeable and committed people with T1D all over the world has inspired me to become a diabetes advocate, and has ultimately influenced my decision turn my passion into profession and become a Paediatric Endocrinologist and diabetes researcher. Still in my teenage years, I started to produce educational material online and create a space for young people with T1D to connect online. Later on, I joined the “IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes” programme, where I have also met Shane O’Donnell, who is now coordinator of the OPEN project. Ever since I started as a volunteer in diabetes advocacy, my urge to make the world a better place for people with diabetes just never stopped, and over time the diabetes community has become my family.

Making technology accessible and applicable

Making both, healthcare and technology, more accessible and applicable is another thing I am passionate about. As co-chair of the Berlin chapter of the NGO Hacking Health, I organize hackathons and workshops with the mission to break down barriers, prototype patient-centric solutions and generate lasting impact in healthcare.

Whenever I am not researching or advocating, I am most likely to travel the world, which is my favourite way of unplugging from our busy and connected lives once in a while. My favourite visits so far were rail travels and road trips through Georgia, Iran, Oman, Japan, South Africa, Canada, and California – just to name a few.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

As part of the OPEN team, I am co-leading the medical team together with Prof. Raile, and hope our research can lead to a better understanding of safety and efficacy of DIY artificial pancreas systems, and am investigating how closed-loop systems still need to be alterated and improved for certain user groups. The #WeAreNotWaiting movement is a great chance for academia and industry to learn from the diabetes community and to translate it into their own work without the constraints of clinical trials. As many OPEN team members are both, researchers working in academia, and T1Ds using a DIY artificial pancreas, I hope our project can help facilitate that dialogue.

Thank you very much for sharing major parts of your life with us, Katarina. The OPEN team is very happy and proud to have you with us and to be inspired by your ambitions!

OPEN at the bytes4diabetes-Award 2020

Last year, the OPEN Project applied for the bytes4diabetes-Award 2020 and out of many applicants was selected as one of the 11 finalists. OPEN took the fabulous opportunity to present its research project which not only investigates the outcomes of users of do-it-yourself artificial pancreas systems (DIYAPS), but also aims to find a solution for a wider use of any of the artificial pancreas systems at the award’s show. Many people from different backgrounds came to talk and ask questions about OPEN with our project manager Hanne who represented the team on this day.

                                                                                       www.mikefuchs-fotografie.de

The bytes4diabetes award, sponsored by BERLIN-CHEMIE AG, is intended to promote the digitization process in diabetology and to encourage a constructive exchange between the various players. In 2020 for the first time, creative minds from clinics or diabetes centers, universities, research institutions or industry, start-ups or talented lone wolves were invited to apply with a digital solution they have created for people with diabetes (PwD), their caregivers or for health care professionals (HCP). A few are then selected to present their ideas at the DiaTec in Berlin, the most important German advanced training event for health care professionals in diabetes technology and digitization.

                                                                                       www.mikefuchs-fotografie.de

This year´s winners are:

1. SNAQ – Take a photo of your plate and the smartphone app “SNAQ” coming from a Swiss start-up will recognize the food. If necessary, you can make manual corrections or additions. Then the app will calculate the amount of food and provide you with the nutritional values of your meal, e.g. carbs, proteins and fat. It is planned to turn this into a medical device which will propose the bolus for a meal to people with diabetes, but it can already help to better calculate the right amount of insulin needed.

2. Graphs to Fight Diabetes – At the “Deutsches Zentrum für Diabetesforschung” (DZD – German Center for Research on Diabetes) studies on different aspects of diabetes are made in various disciplines: basic research, epidemiology, health services research and clinical research. Thus, the research data sets are stored in separate databases and unstructured. The DZD project “Graphs to Fight Diabetes” aims to bring together this existing treasury of diabetes data, structure and analyze it, using innovative IT-technology – graph technology – and uncover and visualize previously hidden cross-connections in order to better understand the origin of the disease and develop new, precise methods of therapy (Precision Medicine).

3. Advice-Device – This project from the “Diabetes-Dorf Initiative Althausen GmbH” and SINOVO presents a therapy-supporting software especially developed for people with type 1 diabetes who are using an insulin pump. Many factors have an influence on the needed amount of insulin, such as meals, activities, menstruation, stress, certain medications or changes in insulin sensitivity, to name a few. The software analyzes data and offers specific recommendations for the insulin dose to deliver according to 135 diabetes guidelines approved in clinical studies and the 35 years of work experience and expertise of Dr. Bernhard Teupe. The Advice-Device (AD) Software is self-learning and therefore will improve the more it is used.

4. A special award for worldwide social responsibility: Smartphone-Based Tele-Ophthalmology – People in the slums and rural areas of India do not receive adequate medical care due to the lack of doctors. An incredibly high number of Indians are blind or visually impaired. The main reason for this is diabetic retinopathy as the eyes of people with diabetes are not been examined. Thus, a beginning retinopathy cannot be treated to prevent blindness. The “Universitäts-Augenklinik Bonn” (university eye hospital) has developed a new screening method, in which auxiliary staff – optometrists – in India can perform eye examinations in mobile screening-camps using an optical adapter for a smartphone. The adapters are substantially cheaper than conventional devices. The photos are sent online to the telemedical center of the Sankara Eye Hospital in Bangalore, where ophthalmologists can make the diagnosis within minutes. The Indian doctors are trained in Bonn and the optometrists are trained directly in South India. It is planned to further expand the screening to save thousands of Indian people with diabetes from blindness.

If you want to read more about bytes4diabetes and the winners, look here. You will also find the other nominees here.
(The bytes4diabetes website is in German only, but you will find further English explanations on most project-websites.)

Get to know us – Renza Scibilia

Renza is an OPEN team member from – European view – far, far away but nevertheless very easy to hear: In her charming way she gets to the heart of things and insists on clarifying and improving views on a life with type 1 diabetes. There is a lot more to say about her, but lets just hear it from herself:

Hi! I’m Renza and I’m from Melbourne Australia – miles away from pretty much everyone else in the OPEN Team. Nonetheless, I’m pleased to be part of it all – and not just because I get bragging rights when it comes to being exhausted with jet lag whenever we meet.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in April 1998, and since 2001 have worked for diabetes organisations where I spend a lot of time banging on about the importance of including people with diabetes in each and every sort of activity that involves us – healthcare, diabetes activities and services, research, education. If it’s for us, include us in the planning of it. If I was the tattooing type, I’d have #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs boldly inked somewhere very obvious! Alas, I am not, so I just spend a lot of time saying and writing it to anyone and everyone who will listen or read about it.

I started using Loop in August of 2017. It was truly the most positive thing I have ever done for my diabetes management. Diabetes and I co-exist far more happily since I’ve been Looping because it now takes far less mental and physical energy to deal with. While I can’t say that it’s like not having diabetes anymore, it certainly has made the burden of diabetes the least it has ever been for me. I cannot stress enough how life changing that has been.

As soon as I started Looping, I wanted to tell everyone about it! I wrote about it on my blog (see here), gave updates on my social media accounts, spoke about it to others living with diabetes, and gave one of the first Australian presentations about DIYAPS technology to healthcare professionals. That session earned me the label of being ‘Deliberately non-compliant’ (coined by another OPEN Team member, Tim Skinner) after the HCPs in the room were horrified at what they were hearing. Thankfully, things are slowly changing. And I wear that term as a badge of honour these days!

I was asked to be part of the OPEN Team from the beginning and I am so pleased to be involved. The OPEN Project is the very definition of the #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs philosophy, and I am so proud to be part of something that truly is for and by people with diabetes. I bring to the team my experience of working within a diabetes organisation to navigate the tricky waters of discussing a diabetes treatment option that is not regulated. I’m extraordinarily proud that Diabetes Australia developed the first position statement on DIYAPS where we very clearly state that people with diabetes should have the choice to use this technology and continue to be supported by their healthcare team.

Diabetes is certainly not the most significant thing in my life and it never will be. I love that Loop has given me the chance to focus on the people and activities that are far more interesting and important. My husband and daughter also appreciate how much less diabetes intrudes, giving us more time and energy to do the things we enjoy. We travel a lot, spend a lot of time searching out great places to eat and drink coffee, chase around our pesky and cute pups, explore bookstores and guitar stores around the globe and listen to a lot of music. See? All things that are far, far more interesting than micro-managing glucose levels!

We are very happy and proud to have Renza with us!