InSmart – Keeping it Simple

Renfrew Group International – The Science of Design

The InSmart Artificial Pancreas is the result of a collaboration between designers at Renfrew Group International and Joan Taylor, Professor of Pharmaceutics at De Montfort University. The pancreas is an implantable device with the potential to end multiple insulin injections for sufferers of Type 1 diabetes – a large proportion of whom are at risk of over or under medicating with current treatment methods.

rgi_artifical pancreas with hand

Diabetes affects 370 million people worldwide. Total deaths from diabetes are projected to rise by more than 50% in the next 10 years – (World Health Organisation). Insulin saves lives but injections are painful and not fully effective. Inefficient insulin dosage leads to a number of clinical complications including and heart disease, kidney failure and blindness.

Our design

Together we’ve designed something different using a patented glucose sensitive polymer invented by Professor Taylor, which is installed in a safe in vivo device. This is the chemical gateway gel that controls insulin output. The artificial pancreas, when implanted into the peritoneal cavity automatically releases the correct amount of insulin in response to varying blood sugar levels.

The device does not need a power supply and the duration between refills is measured in weeks rather than hours. The device is currently in the pre clinical trials phase, clinical trials will follow shortly with the aim of being introduced to the market in 5 Years time.

High res new


  • No graft rejection
  • No batteries
  • No moving parts
  • Refillable
  • Low manufacturing cost

The Artificial Pancreas has recently won the team the accolade of British Inventor of the Year 2014

So, Diabetes affects around 370 million adults worldwide and about a tenth of these people have the type 1 condition. The epidemic of diabetes relates mainly to those suffering from obesity-related type 2 diabetes, but type 1 diabetes is also increasing despite the leanness of the juveniles often affected. It has to be treated with insulin to avoid rapid, whereas for type 2 diabetes, insulin is often only added later in up to 40% of cases, as the disease slowly worsens. This device is aimed at insulin users and type 1 people in particular. It would be refilled every few weeks and this would have a significant effect on a persons’ wellbeing and life in general –no more regular injections required but more significantly a meticulously controlled blood glucose and fewer side effects of the condition as a result of this, affecting quality of life and NHS expenditure.


The science behind the design

The innovative part of the design is the polymeric gel, the glucose-sensitive gel gateway that governs the release of insulin. The reason it works is that the gel gateway (inside the device) softens when it contacts glucose. The gel material contains a lock and key chemical interaction that holds the molecules of the gel together in a minute network. This structure is interrupted by the presence of glucose that enters the device gel layer from the fluid surrounding it in the body.

The gel responds to natural and synthetic sugars –and virtually only to glucose in the body fluids. When the gel softens, the insulin in it travels much more quickly and reaches the body circulation. Once the insulin has lowered the blood glucose, glucose is drawn out of the gel again (down a new concentration gradient, ie by the fundamental laws of diffusion) and the gel re-hardens, effectively closing the gateway.

The science behind the polymeric gel, its housing and various details of its working parts has been patented. This design is novel because it is both responsive and implantable. The responsiveness is important attributes because many diabetic people find it an unrelenting challenge to deal with the ever moving target of glucose levels. The consequences of getting it wrong are the acute hazard of hypoglycaemia and the more chronic dangers of cardiovascular, ophthalmic and kidney disease awaiting them if blood sugar has been habitually high. The implantable nature of the device has the potential to allow patients to look and feel more like everyone else. Feedback mechanisms are beginning to become more available linked to electronic devices, but while these externalised pumps may provide a more immediate answer, they are impossible to hide and many diabetic people do not take readily to them.

Renfrew Group International is an award winning product design consultancy that has over 30 years expertise in converting innovation into successful products. Projects have ranged from healthcare equipment and devices, through consumer products, automotive and capital goods across diverse sectors.

Medical design sheet_s

Contact Renfrew Group on 0116 2531961 or Email

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