The future for Insulet (Nasdaq:PODD) has a different look than it did about a week ago.
A massive shake-up at the executive level came on May 5 when Shacey Petrovic announced she would step down as president and CEO for personal reasons.
Petrovic will stay on as a board member at the Acton, Massachusetts-based automated insulin delivery system developer. She will also assume an advisory role to support the leadership transition to former ResMed President of Sleep and Respiratory Care Jim Hollingshead, who will succeed her as CEO.
While the executive change will come June 1, Insulet’s efforts to innovate in the diabetes space won’t be halted and the company will continue to plug along under new leadership, EVP of Innovation and Strategy Eric Benjamin said during a keynote event at DeviceTalks Boston.
“We’re sad to see Shacey move on from Insulet but we also have to celebrate the choice that she made,” Benjamin said. “She wants to give 110% to whatever she does and there were people in her life that needed more of her than she could give while she was leading us, so she made that choice. And we’re thrilled that we’ll be joined by Jim Hollingshead. He’s going to be a phenomenal leader for Insulet. We have an incredibly exciting 2022 and many years ahead and Jim is going to help us to execute on that and to keep going.”
Hollingshead joins Insulet amid a vital commercial launch, just months after the company’s next-generation Omnipod 5 — the first tubeless, wearable, automated insulin delivery system for which patients can use a dedicated handheld controller or control the system with a secure app on their smartphone — received FDA clearance.
The new leadership is unlikely to change what Benjamin described as a multifaceted culture at the company.
He said an enduring characteristic at Insulet is an “incredible passion” for improving lives from everybody involved with the company. Regardless of who is in charge, Insulet will remain mission-focused, he said.
“[Petrovic] brought her energy to that in her way and Jim is going to bring his energy to that in his way, but it’s something that we all live in and we all embrace, and that’s not changing,” Benjamin said. “We continue to build on our strengths — from a culture perspective — to keep improving the lives of people with diabetes.”
Benjamin, who began his work in the medtech field with drug-coated stents, found his way to Insulet about seven years ago. He said, as an engineer, he fell in love with the Omnipod technology and his affinity for the company has only grown from there.
The latest iteration of the platform — Omnipod 5 — is a small device described by Benjamin as “a little smaller” than a box of Tic Tacs and can be worn anywhere an injection is given. It automatically inserts a cannula “virtually painlessly” and delivers insulin. The user can control the delivery with the controller or smartphone app.
Benjamin said that Omnipod 5 eliminates three to five insulin injections per day.
“Two huge sources of burden, thinking about what’s going to happen to blood sugar and the need to take out and carry a separate device, that’s automated with Omnipod 5,” Benjamin said. “It’s truly extraordinary technology. The feedback in our first few months of the launch has been extraordinary.”
Benjamin pointed out that people want the device to do the job for them, leading the company to continue removing certain features with each iteration until the product represents the simplest-to-use device, meeting all requirements of people with diabetes and ensuring that there is no confusion and nobody can hurt themselves using it.
In order to figure out what needs changing with each version of Omnipod, Insulet engineers employ simulated use.
“They see when things work better or less well — they experience it,” Benjamin said. It’s a huge help in providing empathy for what users are going to experience. It’s a huge part of understanding the design that they’re working on and it’s a huge part of providing context for the sort of data that you’re describing. That’s probably the single most important thing that we do very early in development.”
Ultimately, that effort in the product development stages leads to an offering that people with diabetes can effectively choose, which is essential to Insulet’s mission, Benjamin said.
“They are medical devices. They are also consumer devices,” he explained. “We live at the intersection of those two things. Diabetes is such a personal experience and decisions are influenced by the care team but the ultimate choice is made by the person with diabetes. That’s central to how we think about it.”
Insulet’s next steps include the continued evolution of Omnipod 5, which entails the integration of the platform with Dexcom’s next-generation G7 CGM, which awaits FDA approval, and Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre CGM platform.
The company also wants to ensure that as many smartphones are capable of connecting with Omnipod 5 as possible, Benjamin said. But, the future does not revolve only around diabetes tech, he noted. Insulet already has a business leveraging its platform to deliver other drugs, and that includes a partnership with Amgen to deliver their drug, Neulasta. Plenty more is yet to come.
“It is definitely a platform that we will build on,” Benjamin said. “If you zoom way out, Omnipod 5 is a microcosm of what we think the world is going to look like 20 or 30 years from now with true, personalized delivery for a range of drugs in response to biomarkers that are detected via novel sensors to get therapy just right.”