Can Silicon Valley Cure Diabetes With Low Carbs And High Tech?
Imagine a treatment for Type 2 diabetes that requires neither surgery, medication nor calorie restriction, but rather relies on adherence to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, tracked by regular finger-stick checks of blood chemistry and guided remotely by a team of physicians, coaches and algorithms.
That’s the premise of Virta Health, a San Francisco-based digital health company formed in 2014 and launched officially today, with $37M in the bank from investors including Dr. Robert Kocher of Venrock. The kickoff follows Tuesday’s publication of the results of an uncontrolled clinical study of several hundred patients in Indiana, who will be treated and followed for two years; the just-published data--an interim report of sorts--represent the first 10 weeks of study, sponsored by Virta.
(Disclosure: I am Chief Medical Officer of a genomics data management company, DNAnexus, and do not have a personal, professional or financial relationship with Virta Health; I trained in endocrinology and have previously written about therapeutic approaches to diabetes, including surgery and prevention.)
The number of patients with A1c levels below 6.5% (a measure of diabetic control) increased from 52/262 when the study began to 147/262 after 10 weeks. The majority of patients had one or more diabetes medications reduced or eliminated by the end of the study, and the average patient lost 7.2% of his or her starting weight. 90% of patients who started the study remained enrolled after 10 weeks. Finally, the average beta-hydroxybutyrate level (a measure of degree of dietary carbohydrate Continue reading