By Nick Paul Taylor Contributor
- Abbott Laboratories is making a play for the consumer wearables market with a line of patches that track the levels of biomarkers such as glucose, ketones and lactate.
- The product line, branded Lingo, builds on Abbott's successful FreeStyle Libre technology, which diabetics use to monitor their blood glucose. By expanding to other biomarkers, Abbott is aiming to capture a slice of the $13 billion health tracking market.
- Abbott revealed the technology in a Consumer Electronics Show presentation, becoming the first healthcare company to headline the event and giving it a high-profile, 60-minute slot in which to pitch the technology. The company's push into the consumer space is part of a broader trend in medtech.
Abbott has shaken up the diabetes market with its continuous glucose monitor FreeStyle Libre, resulting in rapid growth. In the third quarter of 2021, FreeStyle Libre and Libre Sense sales approached $1 billion. To put that figure in context, Abbott's entire diabetes franchise made $1.4 billion across all of 2017, the year FreeStyle Libre launched in the U.S.
The success of FreeStyle Libre, which uses a small, 14-day sensor to non-invasively track glucose levels, has spurred Abbott to explore other applications of the technology. The result is Lingo, a product line aimed at consumers who want to track biomarkers in relation to wellbeing or athletic performance.
"We're going to translate a wide range of biometric signals: glucose, ketones, lactate and alcohol. These are all important parts of your metabolic health and Lingo is being designed to measure these biomarkers and provide deeper, more meaningful insights. Monitoring these biomarkers for the first time will offer unprecedented understanding of human metabolism that can improve decisions around general health, nutrition and even athletic performance," Abbott CEO Robert Ford told the CES conference.
Ford used ketone monitoring to show how Lingo may benefit some consumers. When the body lacks carbohydrates to convert into energy, it burns fat instead, causing the buildup of ketones. Some people try to induce that fat-burning state, known as ketosis, by following the keto diet. Abbott's Lingo Keto, the first product in the portfolio, is designed to help people know if they are in ketosis and stay in that state for longer.
Another Lingo sensor will track glucose, which Ford framed as beneficial for weight management, sleep and athletic performance. The portfolio also features a lactate tracker, to measure the buildup of lactic acid during exercise, and an alcohol sensor that Ford said will "help you make some better decisions." The alcohol sensor could eventually connect to the wearer's car.
Abbott's push into the consumer space is part of a broader trend in medtech. In October, Medtronic CEO Geoff Martha said the company is "building out that direct-to-consumer muscle" as it adapts to a world in which tech companies are targeting healthcare and consumers are seeking to track health metrics.
"Medtronic will no longer be known as just a medical device company. We're going beyond devices to help technology serve more people in more ways," Martha said. "The speed of the tech companies are a good benchmark for us and the impact — how ubiquitous some of these technologies are."