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50 Innovative Companies to Watch 2018

Continuing a Proud Legacy of Innovations and Firsts in Diabetes Technology: Ascensia Diabetes Care

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Ascensia may be a new name as a diabetes care company, but it has a longstanding history of innovation in the field of diabetes. It was formed in 2016 through the acquisition of Bayer Diabetes Care by PHC Holdings (formerly Panasonic Healthcare Holdings), a private equity owned company that was itself carved out of the Panasonic Corporation in 2015. Ascensia has established itself as a standalone global company dedicated to improving the health and lives of people with diabetes.

“We have a powerful mission statement that says that we want to empower people living with diabetes through innovative solutions that simplify and improve their lives,” says Michael Kloss, CEO. “Our entire company is united behind this common purpose and it guides everything we now do as a business.”

Innovation has always been at the heart of the company. The diabetes business that became Ascensia is based on over 70 years of delivering innovative blood glucose monitoring devices. The company is proud of its longstanding heritage in diabetes and the many industry firsts it has developed through its R&D efforts. This has been strengthened even more following the acquisition by PHC, which has provided more resources for innovation and access to an additional R&D team from PHC. This focus on innovation will allow Ascensia to transform into the diabetes care business of the future and enable long-term sustainable growth for the company.

Transforming the Company from Devices to Solutions

In order to meet the changing needs of people with diabetes, Ascensia is transforming from a blood glucose monitoring only company to one focused on diabetes management. Despite this transformation, the core product portfolio of blood glucose monitoring devices will continue to be a significant part of the business. These systems are based on remarkable accuracy and user-friendly features that help make diabetes self-management easier, such as Second Chance sampling. They have also been chosen as the exclusive blood glucose monitoring system to support calibration of Medtronic’s MiniMed series of insulin pumps and the recently approved Omnipod DASH PDM by Insulet.

Alongside this core business, their transformation to a company that is providing software and services for people with diabetes in underway. As connectivity and data management in diabetes have become more important, Ascensia has launched its connected meter and app, the CONTOUR NEXT ONE, and the CONTOUR DIABETES app, which is just the start for Ascensia. The next step for them will be to develop holistic software solutions that are designed to support all aspects of diabetes management.

Customer-Centric Innovation

Being a company that helps people with diabetes, it is critical for Ascensia to gain the trust and respect of consumers and the entire diabetes community. Whether it’s a negative feedback or a positive opinion, the company always listens to the people who use its products and seeks to understand their challenges, in order to provide meaningful solutions.

“The foundation of our innovation is to gather feedback from people with diabetes from various sources, including market research, app store reviews and social media, to ensure that we continuously improve our offerings,” says Michael. “This is even more important for us as we transform to a company that develops more software solutions, as our customers expect us to be able to regularly make improvements to our apps in a quicker time frame than releasing a new medical device or meter. This is an example of how our mindset is changing as a company, to be more innovative, nimble and software focused.”

As an organization, Ascensia today is a trusted partner in the diabetes community, not only through the reliability and quality of its products but also in the integrity of its interactions with members of the diabetes community. It is one of Ascensia’s priorities to continue this and work with the diabetes community. And it is only by providing meaningful solutions that it can show it is a true partner to consumers and healthcare professionals.

Innovation Is the Key

In-Conversation with the Dynamic CEO, Michael Kloss:

Q. For a company to be one of the most ‘innovative,’ its employees must think like innovators, and they need to feel they have a decent outlet for sharing their observations and ideas. Is this true within your company?

At Ascensia, we encourage innovative thinking and provide opportunities for employees to share their ideas, as their idea may have the ability to impact our business and improve diabetes management. Innovation is not just for our R&D and Global Strategy teams, it is a core element of our entire business.

We have been developing a strong culture of innovation and agility that allows people to identify and implement ways to improve their daily business activities. One of our company values is to be forward thinking and we describe ourselves as curious, bold and innovative. That is critical for us, as we want our employees to think like entrepreneurs, try new approaches and learn from what can be improved.

Q. Technology & Innovation is a perfect fusion. How often do you innovate? Is it only when there is a need in the market?

To make our existing products and solutions better meet the needs of people with diabetes, we are constantly innovating. That is because the needs of people with diabetes are constantly evolving and we try to react to the challenges they face in managing their diabetes. We frequently speak directly to the users of our solutions to obtain their feedback which helps us to identify improvements to current products.

We are also identifying new product areas, where we can apply our innovation and technological skills, such as minimally invasive glucose monitoring and the newer area of interconnected diabetes management, that is focused on providing digital solutions for diabetes self-management.

Q. What are the factors that make your brand most ‘innovative,’ and why?

The core of our innovation is the fact that we are keep in mind the needs of patients and healthcare professionals in the solutions we develop. Our innovative R&D programs are patient-centric and are designed to meet a specific need that has been identified for people with diabetes. We always have the end user in mind. We deeply understand diabetes, meaning our innovation can get right to the core of the issues faced by people living with this condition. And we also have a broad range of R&D expertise across the teams at Ascensia and PHC, from electrical engineers and device specialists, to analytical chemists, to software developers and user experience experts. I believe these factors combined make Ascensia Diabetes Care one of the most innovative companies in the diabetes industry today.

Crafting the Future Roadmap

In May 2018, Ascensia Diabetes Care globally launched its upgraded version of the CONTOUR DIABETES app, the solution that is its first entry into interconnected diabetes management. The second release of the app includes an advanced new feature called My Patterns, which uses innovative algorithms to more intelligently analyze blood glucose results and delivers personalized meaningful feedback to patients that can help them make positive lifestyle changes.

The My Patterns feature works by analyzing data received from the CONTOUR NEXT ONE meter to identify and notify the user of sub-optimal patterns in their blood glucose readings. Once it has notified the user that a pattern has been identified, the app will prompt users about the possible causes of the pattern and provides guidance to help address it. It allows patients to set reminders or use testing plans to help improve their blood glucose patterns and will track their progress to see if the pattern improves over time. This new feature takes the mobile diabetes management app from being just an electronic log book to a smart solution capable of providing personalized feedback and recommendations. And this is just the start of the software advances that are planned.

The company is planning to expand further into interconnected diabetes management, by providing new solutions that use connectivity and holistic data management to support diabetes care. “For us, new solutions are not just about collecting and analyzing blood glucose data, but about using multiple data sources and artificial intelligence to provide the right recommendations for patients,” explains Michael. “That could include coaching, medication advice, support with lifestyle improvements or disease management recommendations. The innovations we want to bring to diabetes have the potential to change the paradigm entirely by providing a holistic solution that can connect various sources of data and can minimize the effort people need to manage their diabetes. That is where the power of digital solutions for diabetes management truly lies and we want to harness that to help people with diabetes do what they want most, which is live a healthy life.”

Greet the Chief

Michael Kloss, CEO: Michael has over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries and he has been the CEO since Ascensia was created as a standalone company. In 1995, he joined Bayer Consumer Care as Export Manager in Paris, France, and had various roles in Bayer prior to the sale of the Diabetes Care business. Prior to Ascensia, Michael was Global Head for Diabetes Care Commercial Operations at Bayer Consumer Care for 3 years.

Michael holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Birmingham, UK and an MBA from the University of Paris. He also studied Executive Leadership at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA.

“Our vision for the future is a more holistic diabetes management system that uses information about the person with diabetes from a variety of sources. We believe that this will truly help them to more effectively manage their condition and live healthier lives.”