Data-gathering insulin pen maker Companion pulls in Series B led by Eli Lilly

Companion CEO Sean Saint

Companion Medical, a California startup with a Bluetooth-enabled insulin pen and smartphone app, pulled in Series B financing this week, led by Big Pharma player Eli Lilly ($LLY). Though the amount was undisclosed, the move marks a step forward for Lilly into the world of drug delivery technology, for which the company is currently building an R&D center in Cambridge, MA.

San Diego's Companion Medical is shooting to complete early testing and ultimately a 510(k) submission to the FDA of its diabetes device for people who cannot or will not use a pump. The data management aspect of its insulin pen, existing in the smartphone app, is designed to make using a pen more efficient and less likely to result in error.

For Lilly, long a specialist in insulin products, this type of technology is crucial to becoming a larger force in the market. With diabetes on the rise in the U.S. and elsewhere, patients are looking for solutions to make their drug regimens more convenient and safe.

"New drug delivery and device innovation is critically important to Lilly's growing portfolio of potential medicines, particularly in our focus areas of diabetes, neurodegeneration, immunology and pain," said Jan Lundberg, EVP of science and technology and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, at the opening of the new Cambridge site. "The best therapies of the future will marry breakthrough scientific discovery with customer-friendly devices. That's what will make life better for people who need our medicines and give Lilly a true competitive edge."

Lilly is holding a conference call on June 7 at the American Diabetes Association conference in Boston to update investors on its diabetes strategy. While Companion is likely a small part of that, it represents a focus on innovative ways to approach the market.

"We are very excited to have Lilly as the lead investor in our series B financing," Companion CEO Sean Saint said in a statement. "Lilly is a global leader in insulin, as well as other medicines and devices in the international diabetes space, and we look forward to their involvement in potentially bringing our device to market."

- here's the release