The Culinary Coach, a Whisk platform powered by artificial intelligence (AI), has been awarded the top prize in the Ascenia Diabetes Challenge. The results of the global innovation competition were announced Friday at the American Diabetes Association’s 78th Annual Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida.

The challenge aimed to find digital solutions to assist with type 2 diabetes management.1 Based in the United Kingdom, Whisk is developing the Culinary Coach mobile technology to help individuals with type 2 diabetes more easily find foods they enjoy and are nutritionally tailored to their need and preferences. It is aimed to help patients make sustainable behavior changes, and to improve their health outcomes.

According to Stuart Renshaw, chief commercial officer at Whisk, the international company works with some the world’s largest grocers and food brands to help people decide ‘What’s for dinner?’ through its existing platform, the Food Genome. Finding the right recipe is often like looking for a small piece of a jumbled puzzle, he said, and despite the plethora of cooking programs being viewed by the public, and wealth of information available, people still tend to cook the same 6 recipes and meals every week.

“We believe there is real value in presenting someone with a solution,” Renshaw said, during Friday's press conference to announce the winner. “(Culinary Coach) is going to be an exciting and transformational product. You’re going to understand your blood sugar performance.”

Utilizing its €100,000 in prize money from the Ascensia Diabetes Challenge, Whisk plans to create a personalized food experience for individuals with type 2 diabetes that factors in taste preferences, time constraints, budget, weather, and dietary restrictions, including allergies.1 Users will be able to save recipes to their meal plans, and ingredients will automatically be added to online shopping carts tied to some of the world’s leading grocery retailers.1

In addition, blood sugar data will “train” Culinary Coach’s AI technology to make personalized nutrition recommendations that support a user’s medical needs. A final stage of the product’s development would take the platform beyond recipes, Renshaw said, with expansion that will include ready-made meals, and restaurants.

Michael Kloss, CEO and president of Ascensia Diabetes Care, a global company with a portfolio of glucose monitoring systems, noted that nutrition and food selection are huge components of Type 2 diabetes management.1 “The panel of judges and I were hugely impressed by Whisk’s current tool and how they plan to develop it for people with Type 2 diabetes,” Kloss said, in a statement. “By helping people with Type 2 diabetes find personalized and tailored meal recommendations that are based on their own blood glucose data, and food preferences, we have the potential to empower millions of people with Type 2 diabetes to make healthier food choices that they will enjoy.”

Challenge judge Neal Kaufman, MD, chief medical officer of Canary Health, said other apps have been helpful in diabetes management, but have not traditionally been impactful in improving outcomes. The difference with Whisk, he added, is that the Culinary Coach could provide a digital therapeutic that is connected to knowledge with a capacity to be automated and continually learning. “Ascensia wanted to encourage innovation, but also assist people with Type 2 diabetes,” Kaufman said. “Connected services are where the future is headed.”

The Ascensia Diabetes Challenge was kicked off 9 months ago with the goal of discovering digital solutions that have the potential of revolutionizing Type 2 diabetes management. Whisk was selected as the winner from among 116 entries that came from 25 countries. The entries were narrowed down to 6 finalists, announced in April.2

During Friday’s press conference announcing the winner, officials with Ascenia Diabetes Care also named finalists Qstream and Walk With Path as runners-up. Both projects are receiving €30,000 to further develop their diabetes management solutions.

Qstream is a team-based mobile game that was developed at Harvard Medical School.2 It can prompt meaningful behavior change in people with Type 2 diabetes, and has been proven to generate significant and sustained improvements in blood glucose control among users.
Path Feel by Walk with Path is an insole that provides vibrational, or haptic, feedback to the user during walking.2 It is designed to aid people with diabetic neuropathy to feel the ground, and achieve balance. Path Feel is a connected digital solution, and integrates data from the insole, which can be used to personalize and enhance care.  

Other finalists, who each received €10,000, included: GlycoLeap by Holmusk, which combines human coaching with mobile technology to help individuals lose weight and lower A1c; My Diabetes Coach by Macadamian, a voice first platform utilizing Amazon’s Alexa to capture data and create a virual coaching experience; and xbird, medical AI software that analyzes micro-movements and collects data to predict and detect potential hypo- and hyperglycaemic events.2

According to challenge officials, the finalists have been brought together to discuss ideas, and some will continue to work with Ascensia Diabetes Care . “Even those who didn’t win are winners,” Kaufman said.


References
  1. Whisk's AI-powered Culinary Coach named as winner of Ascensia Diabetes Challenge [news release]. Basel, Switzerland and Orlando, FL: June 22, 2018; Ascensia Diabetes Care. http://www.ascensia.com/press/press-release/?id=d074e136-122e-4fc0-b99d-1b3a1a41cd18. Accessed June 22, 2018.
  2. Ascensia announces finalists for the Ascensia Diabetes Challenge who have the potential to revolutionize type 2 diabetes management [news release]. Basel, Switzerland: April 3, 2018; Ascensia Diabetes Care. http://www.ascensia.com/press/press-release/?id=a9df02b2-28bf-4090-aa75-33da788e918b. Accessed June 22, 2018.