No More Needles?

Devon Grimmé wants to eliminate needle injections for diabetics.

Grimmé (MBA ’14) is the director of business development for Prometheon Pharma, a global health company with a platform technology called Topicon™ that allows large molecule drugs, such as insulin, to pass through the skin.

Prometheon, housed in UF’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator, recently raised more than $13,000 through an online crowdfunding campaign.

Grimmé said the campaign was designed to raise awareness of the patch and help fund the large animal testing phase of its development. He said testing on smaller animals has gone smoothly, and results show the patch is more consistent and predictable administering insulin when compared to injections. It can also last up to seven days.

The patch is scheduled for market approval and product launch in 2018, he said.

A friend of Grimmé’s recommended him to Prometheon’s founder and CEO, Dr. Stephen Hsu, to help the startup’s business development. The Topicon™ technology was developed by Dr. Hsu with a highly competitive UF Opportunity Seed Fund Award in 2011.

“The idea was so huge and the potential was so great to help the world,” Grimmé said.

After working remotely for a few months, Grimmé finally met Dr. Hsu in person late last year, and they decided Grimmé would join the company full-time when he finished the MBA program in May 2014.

“I could play a part in improving the lives of hundreds of millions of people, even if it’s a small part,” he said.

Grimmé said engaging online with the diabetes community has helped him realize the pain and misery associated with constant injections. He even simulated an insulin injection by pricking his finger and injecting himself with saline. The recorded injection, which was part of the “#nopricks” campaign, led to an “overwhelming realization,” he said.

“I can’t imagine doing it knowing that my life would depend on it,” said Grimmé, “and knowing that I had to do it again and again and again that day, the next morning, and for the rest of my life just to stay alive.”

He said diabetics have written about how amazing a patch would be, how it would relieve worry and increase their freedom. One diabetic wrote that not having to inject himself would almost allow him to live like a normal person, Grimmé said.

“It’s a lot more impactful than even we imagined,” he said.

Throughout the campaign, Prometheon has heard from hundreds of people through emails, Facebook posts, and comments on Diabetes Support’s Facebook page. The company’s posts on the page have been shared more than 6,500 times.

Grimmé said he has friends with diabetes, as well as friends with children who have the disease. He said his friends would no longer worry their kids wouldn’t receive their medicine if they sent them on play dates or sleepovers with an insulin patch available.

“They’re all incredibly excited by it,” he said.

Grimmé’s UF background helped prepare him for his work with Prometheon. His family, youth and community science degree increased his social awareness and mission while his MBA “showed him how business really works,” he said.

“UF MBA was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life and was probably the best two years of my life,” he said.

He said UF MBA solidified his strengths, developed skills he lacked and gave him focus and direction. Traveling to China, Peru, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on UF MBA’s Global Immersion Experience broadened his perspective and his idea of what was possible, he said.

“I have the opportunity—a very rare opportunity—to be a part of something that could literally change the future of global health, medicine and drug delivery,” Grimmé said. “I couldn’t pass that up.”