said DexCom chief executive Terrance Gregg, whose firm is known for minimally invasive techniques. To succeed would require "several hundred million dollars or even a billion dollars," he said.
Silicon Valley is already opening its vast wallet.
Medtronic Inc Senior Vice President of Medicine and Technology Stephen Oesterle recently said he now considers Google to be the medical device firm's next great rival, thanks to its funding for research and development, or R&D.
“We spend $1.5 billion a year on R&D at Medtronic – and it’s mostly D,” he told the audience at a recent conference. “Google is spending $8 billion a year on R&D and, as far as I can tell, it’s mostly R.”
Google has been public about some of its plans: it has developed a "smart" contact lens that measures glucose. In a blog post detailing plans for its smart contact lens, Google described an LED system that could warn of high or low blood sugar by flashing tiny lights. It has recently said it is looking for partners to bring the lens to market.
The device, which uses tiny chips and sensors that resemble bits of glitter to measure glucose levels in tears, is expected to be years away from commercial development, and skeptics wonder if it will ever be ready.
Previous attempts at accurate non-invasive measurement have been foiled by body movement, and fluctuations in hydration and temperature. Tears also have lower concentrations of glucose, which are harder to track.
But the Life Sciences team in charge of the lens and other related research is housed at the Google X facility, where it works on major breakthroughs such as the self-driving car, a former employee who requested anonymity said.
Apple's efforts center on its iWatch, which is on track to ship in October, three sources at leading supply chain firms told Reuters. It is not clear whether the initial release will incorporate glucose-tracking sensors.
Still, Apple has poached executives and bio-sensor engineers from such medical technology firms as Masimo Corp, Vital Connect, and the now-defunct glucose monitoring startup C8 Medisensors.
"It has scooped up many of the most talented people with glucose-sensing expertise," said George Palikaras, CEO of Mediwise, a startup that hopes to measure blood sugar levels beneath the skin's surface by transmitting radio waves through a section of the human body.
The tech companies are also drawing mainstream interest to the field, he said. "When Google announced its smart contact lens, that