Sansum Diabetes and UCSB Research Team Win Coveted Wyss Institute IEEE EMBS Award for Translational Research on the Artificial Pancreas Project

Sansum Diabetes Research Institute is pleased to announce that researchers from Sansum and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) were among three awardees out of 128 entrants in the 2nd Annual Wyss Institute IEEE EMBS Award for Translational Research, which recognizes projects with potential to make “transformative impact on healthcare safety, quality, effectiveness, accessibility and affordability.”

The Sansum/UCSB submission, “Clinical Translation of MPC for the Artificial Pancreas,” describes the researchers’ ongoing work on a system for automatically controlling blood glucose in people with type 1 diabetes – a collaboration that began in 2006. Presenting on behalf of the Sansum medical team and UCSB Chemical Engineering Department were Dr. Frank Doyle III, Dr. Eyal Dassau, and Dr. Howard Zisser.

Dr. Eyal Dassau (l), Dr. Frank Doyle III (c) and Dr. Howard Zisser (r), win the Wyss Institute IEEE EMBS Award for Translational Research on the Artificial Pancreas Project, a collaborative effort between Sansum Diabetes Research Institute and the UCSB Department of Chemical Engineering.

“This is wonderful recognition for the artificial pancreas work at UCSB and Sansum,” said Dr. Doyle, Mellichamp Professor of Process Control in the UCSB Chemical Engineering Department and Adjunct Senior Investigator at Sansum. “We are well known in the diabetes community, but to be recognized across all of translational biomedical engineering is a tremendous honor.”

“This award was a confirmation that a close relationship between engineering and medicine is the right path forward,” said Dr. Dassau, Senior Investigator & Diabetes Team Research Manager at UCSB and Adjunct Senior Investigator at Sansum. “I think that the Wyss Institute’s vision for biologically inspired, interdisciplinary research is exactly what UCSB and Sansum have been doing for the past six years.”

The ultimate goal of artificial pancreas research is to develop products that make living with diabetes safer and easier, explained Dr. Zisser, Director of Clinical Research & Technology at Sansum and Adjunct Professor of Engineering at UCSB. Current artificial pancreas prototypes consist of an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that are both controlled by software run on a third device, such as a laptop computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

The prototypes are studied in overnight “closed-loop” trials that depend on volunteer “subjects” with type 1 diabetes, who get to take a break from diabetes self-management but must have their blood drawn frequently as part of the experimental protocol. In supervising the trials, Dr. Zisser works closely with both participants – some of whom have been volunteering to test new diabetes technologies for over five years – as well as the companies that donate insulin pumps, CGMs, and other supplies. “None of this would be possible without our dedicated subjects and industry partners,” he said.

The success of any artificial pancreas system relies on the software program, or algorithm, that analyzes glucose data from the CGM and tells the pump how much insulin to deliver. The Sansum/UCSB team uses a kind of algorithm called model predictive control (MPC), which is traditionally used in oil refineries and chemical plants. Using MPC for glucose control was first proposed in the mid-1990s by a research team including Dr. Doyle, who maintained his interest in the field when he arrived at UCSB in 2002. “The power of our approach is to use a very flexible yet sophisticated control platform (model predictive control) and to tailor it to the medical needs and safety considerations of the artificial pancreas,” Dr. Doyle said.

The Sansum/UCSB team presented their work along with five other finalists at the 2012 Conference of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBS) in San Diego, CA on August 29, 2012 ( The next day, the researchers received $1,000 for their third-place award.

“It’s nice to receive some appreciation of our contribution to the development of an artificial pancreas and other devices that will help with the daily lives of people with type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Dassau. But, he added, “The best acknowledgement is to hear from subjects in trials that they’ve had a vacation – a day not having to worry about their diabetes.”

About Sansum Diabetes Research Institute

Sansum Diabetes Research Institute is an internationally recognized research center devoted to the prevention, treatment and cure of diabetes. Dr. William D. Sansum, who brought renown to Santa Barbara in 1922 as the first physician in the U.S. to produce and administer life-saving insulin to patients with diabetes, founded the nonprofit organization in 1944.  Today, under the leadership of Lois Jovanovič, M.D., Sansum Diabetes Research Institute remains an extraordinary place, where diabetes research, nutrition, education, and diabetes prevention have improved the lives of people worldwide who suffer from this serious disease.

The Institute has gained global acclaim for its work to develop an artificial pancreas, its success in developing protocols to increase the incidence of healthy babies born to women with diabetes, and its work with people with and at risk for type 2 diabetes. Physicians and researchers continue to develop new treatment protocols for people with diabetes, including new drugs and medical devices.

It is our intention to use our past and present accomplishments to guide us into the future – to tap into the energy and commitment that made Sansum Diabetes Research Institute what it is today – a worldwide leader in diabetes research, prevention, and treatment. For more information on Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, contact Sarah Ettman-Sterner at (805) 682-7638 or and visit

About The College of Engineering at University of California, Santa Barbara

The College of Engineering at University of California, Santa Barbara is recognized globally as a leader among the top tier of engineering education and research programs, and is renowned for a successful interdisciplinary approach to engineering research. The Chemical Engineering department at UCSB is ranked 2nd among doctoral research programs in the country by the National Research Council. For more information, contact Melissa Van De Werfhorst at

About the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering uses Nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world.

Working as an alliance among Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Arts & Sciences, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Tufts University, and Boston University, the Institute crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers to engage in high-risk research that leads to transformative technological breakthroughs.

By emulating Nature’s principles for self-organizing and self-regulating, Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing. These technologies are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances, and new start-ups.

For more information on the Wyss Institute, visit

About the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Engineering & Biology Society

IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) is the world’s largest international society of biomedical engineers. The organization’s 9,100 members reside in some 97 countries around the world. EMBS provides its members with access to the people, practices, information, ideas and opinions that are shaping one of the fastest growing fields in science.

For more information on IEEE EMBS, visit



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