By Money & Finance
Investors would have done much better keeping an eye on Tandem Diabetes Care, a small, promising -- yet still risky -- medical products company that is growing sales, but also losing money. In the first quarter, it sold a few thousand of its next-generation insulin pump, the t:slim X2, and says it needs an installed base of 80,000 pumps to break even on a cash flow basis, though it believes it can hit that milestone some time next year.
Because diabetes is a huge growth market, with the incidence of the disease expected to grow 165% in the U.S. by 2050, Tandem has a promising technology that analysts believe, if successful, could challenge Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) for industry leadership. Medtronic offers a competing technology called a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that tracks a patient's blood sugar over time to let them better manage their disease.
As diabetics seek alternatives to insulin injections to regulate their condition, Tandem has partnered with DexCom to bring its insulin pump system (that works with DexCom's monitoring system) to market early next year. The artificial pancreas monitors patients' blood glucose levels and uses an algorithm to know when to deliver an appropriate dose of insulin. At least one analyst thinks highly of Tandem's prospects for being able to grab market share when its system is commercialized. He upgraded the stock, which sent shares soaring.
Although Medtronic is many times larger than Tandem, its CGM device is also much larger than Tandem's t:slim X2, and thus more cumbersome. And DexCom's monitors, which work with both systems, can be used for longer periods of time with Tandem's pump, making them more convenient. Also, the need for finger pricks for dosing decisions isn't needed with the t:slim X2 whereas they're still necessary with Medtronic's MiniMed system.
While the potential for Tandem Diabetes Care may be more promising than for NII Holdings, it also is a risky proposition. Even though the FDA just approved Tandem's pump with its newest technology that predicts where insulin level needs and adjusts production accordingly, Medtronic also received regulatory approval for its own enhanced CGM system that now allows for treating patients between ages seven and 13.
It removes a competitive advantage Tandem had with its pump being able to be used on those as young as six. Tandem's finances are probably not going to look pretty either for awhile yet. Still, by the t:slim X2 getting approved for use with DexCom's more feature-rich monitoring technology, a development that wasn't expected, there's good reason why Tandem Diabetes Care shares are soaring.