Major diabetes device makers are left scratching their heads and looking very, very uncool after a 12-year-old girl accomplished what they've been trying to for years.

Jamie Hartford 1

April 1, 2013

2 Min Read
Seventh Grader Wins Science Fair with Artificial Pancreas

A Tennessee seventh grader took home the blue ribbon at her middle school’s science fair last week for building the first working prototype of an artificial pancreas. 

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Suzie Quejada,12, beat major medical device companies in the race to make an artificial pancreas.   

Suzie Quentin, now 12, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 10. After two years of finger pricks, missing out on cake at birthday parties, and “having her style cramped” by insulin pumps made by major medical device manufacturers, she decided she’d had enough.

“IDK what these ppl r thinking, but their pumps r like clunky first-generation iPods or something,” Quentin, a seventh grader at Apollonius Middle School, told MD+DI via text message. “Regular pumps r totes not kewl.”

Her school’s science fair gave her the impetus to put down her phone and tackle the holy grail of diabetes care.

“Srsly, it wasn’t that hard 2 make,” she texted.

Quentin rigged her iPhone, which is always in her possession, to work as a continuous glucose monitor that feeds data to an insulin pump—the smallest and sleekest ever made—under closed-loop control, which she created using a 3-D printer in the school’s science lab. It was so cheap to make that she printed one in every color of the rainbow to match everything in her closet. She says her favorite is the leopard-print version.

Diabetes device makers are said to be frantically trying to get their hands on Quentin’s artificial pancreas, so they can begin tearing it down.

“We have no idea how she did this,” said a spokesperson for one device maker who requested anonymity.

Quentin’s mother says several companies have approached her daughter about purchasing the technology but adds that the girl intends to share instructions to make the device on the Web site Reddit, which is widely regarded as “the front page of the internet.”

Asked to comment on Quentin’s promise to disseminate plans to build the artificial pancreas to the world free of charge, a spokesman from nother diabetes device maker was incredulous.

“This chronic disease has been a cash cow for us and many others in the medical device industry for years," he said. "How will we make any money?”

You can view the plans for Quentin's artificial pancreas here.

Jamie Hartford is the meddling editor of MD+DI. 

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