Six Lenses The Locus Research blog about creatvity, design, product development and innovation.

Part 7 - The Mann; A Living Legend

Alfred Mann is one of the great medical device developers of our time. I had the privilege to attend the Medical Design Excellence Awards in New York where he was awards the MDEA Lifetime Achievement award.

Firstly a bit of background on the Mann: he is 85 years old and has dedicated the past 42 years of his career to developing new medical technologies. He initially got involved in the medical device space after founding Spectrolab in 1956 (now a part of Boeing), a provider of solar panels that are used to power spacecraft.

In 1969 Johns Hopkins University, approached Mann to develop a long-lived cardiac pacemaker . At that time, pacemakers were large and heavy, and they only had enough power to last about a year and a half before needing to be replaced. Mann helped establish Pacesetter Systems, and create a smaller device with a rechargeable battery. Amazingly the second patient who was implanted with the pacemaker technology in 1973 is still alive today and is using the same pacemaker after 37 years.

Mann has been involved in the development of implantable and external insulin pumps and continuous glucose sensors for treating diabetes. These devices have really revolutionized the treatment for Type-1 diabetes.
When asked which medical technology he is the most proud of, Mann says he has a hard time picking one. “I’ve been involved in projects that have, for example, enabled a deaf child to hear, a blind person to see, and a crippled person to walk,” he explains. “The technologies such as pacemakers and glucose sensors that I’ve been involved with are obviously very important, too.”

Given all of these achievements, Mann himself believes his latest and not yet commercially release innovation will touch more people than all of his other innovations combined. Its a kinetic insulin monomer that counteracts diabetes.
There are now 300 million people in the world with diabetes; it is predicted that there will be half a billion people with diabetes in the world within a couple of decades.” In late 2010, UnitedHealth Group projected that half of all adults in the United States will have either have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020.

Mann has been involved with a therapy that mimics the insulin kinetics of a healthy pancreas. “If you take an injection of today’s regular commercial insulin, it doesn’t peak for roughly two to three hours,” Mann explains. “A normal person digests a meal in roughly three hours. So you have all of that late excess insulin, which causes severe low blood pressure, a condition known as hypoglycemia, which can be a problem in the short term.”

Approximately 15 years ago, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk created rapid-acting analogs of insulin, which sped up the breakdown of insulin hexamers in all current insulins. “These rapid-acting analogues last for five to seven hours and peak in 30–90 minutes. That’s much better but it’s still too slow. Mann has been very involved with a unique insulin product that mimics the insulin kinetics of a non-diabetic person. That insulin created at Mannkind is an ultrarapid-acting form of insulin that peaks in 12–15 minutes and is gone within three hours and its delivered in a a new inhaler.

Alfred Mann was awarded the MDEA Life Time Achievement Awards at the MDEA ceremony in New York. Respect.

To watch his presentation please visit:

Designer Blythe Rees-Jones of Locus Research visited New York recently to attend the Medical Design and Manufacturing MD&M East tradeshow and the Medical Design Excellence Awards MDEA. Encircle Compression Therapy, a new medical devices developed by Blythe Rees-Jones and the Locus and TMC team was awarded a winner of the 2011 Medical Design Excellence awards – so Blythe went to the East coast of America to see what impact this new medical technology could have in the country of the stars & stripes. This is the seventh of a series of posts about his experiences on the trip.


Acknowledgements: We would like to thank  The Merino Company, Andy Wynne,  Delloch, Terry Vickers & Sean O'connor for supporting this trip.

Blythe Rees-Jones's picture
Blythe Rees-Jones
Blythe Rees-Jones is an award winning product developer and designer who has a creative streak and a strong ability to drive collaboration.


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