The two co-founders of CuraMaker, Dr Chong Yeh Woei and Wong Kien Haw, share a friendship that spans more than a decade. Both being gourmands – they often caught up over good food and drinks, enjoyed chatting about the whole nine yards, where the topic of health regularly underpinned their conversations. Not surprising, since Dr Chong is a practising medical doctor and Kien is a champion for health and fitness.
One day back in 2011, while having dinner, the chat between the two friends naturally gravitated towards health. In the midst of deliberating what they can do to help people better manage their health, Dr Chong unfolded an unused napkin lying on the table, and started drawing. He began illustrating sugar hills (blood sugar spikes) and ended up drawing line charts with troughs and peaks. This inspired a many hours long conversation around how diets which raises and cause one’s blood sugar levels to fluctuate can be damaging to one’s health.
Although the ‘sugar hills’ banter ended that day, and the pair of friends returned to their respective professional commitments, the conversation remained in the back of their minds. The topic of ‘sugar hills’ was rekindled in 2016 when Dr Chong and Kien talked about the ‘death by sugar’ across the Southeast Asian population, and was spurred to think of doing something together to help diabetes sufferers. They considered the various factors in ascertaining one’s 3-month average blood sugar levels (HbA1c), and concluded that predicting HbA1c of diabetes sufferers provides them with useful insights to better manage their dietary lifestyle. CuraMaker was birthed in 2017!
Collaborating with a team of machine-learning specialists, Dr Chong and Kien began developing a metabolics analysis platform which can provide a 3-month forward predicted range of HbA1c values for patients. This platform was tested via a clinical trial in Malaysia with 400 participants and managed to provide a 3-month forward HbA1c readings with up to 85% relevancy.
Dr Chong and Kien realised that the insights offered by CuraMaker 1.0 needed to be more dynamic, as people did not want to wait 3 months to know whether their food consumption patterns were good or bad.
Back to the drawing board
In late 2019, Kien deep-dived into his research on blood sugar levels, which was partly driven by his brother’s experiences (as a diabetic) in using a continuous glucose monitoring system (CGMS) to monitor his blood glucose levels, via a small sensor attached to the back of his arm – without the need for finger pricks and glucometers.
Using the Abbott Freestyle Libre CGMS, Kien’s brother was able to check his current glucose reading, see how his glucose levels were changing, get information on where his glucose levels were going. He shared his positive feedback with Kien and added that “the availability of dynamic data of what foods elevate my blood glucose levels has helped me manage my blood sugar levels”. This sparked the next phase of development for CuraMaker, as Kien sought to map food consumption against the blood glucose (sugar) fluctuations, and provide insights to what and when to eat to reduce these fluctuations.
The CuraMaker team now needed to study the dietary lifestyles of diverse profiles, to better inform their analysis and modelling of how each individual’s body responded differently to food. And so, with Dr Chong’s medical inputs, the team set out to work with 20 individuals who were keen on trialing a CGMS. At the same time, the CuraMaker team also researched how the Abbott Freestyle Libre functions.
When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the global community to hit the pause button in going about their normal daily lives with lockdowns, circuit breakers, movement control orders. Kien used this pause in time to analyse data collected from the 20 individuals.
After spending several weeks researching medical journals, interpreting articles on glycemic variance, analysing and distilling the data, the CuraMaker team implemented refinements to the metabolic analytics platform that powers CuraMaker. Paired with the Abbott’s Freestyle Libre, the CuraMaker app provides user with insights on :
- impact of meals on blood glucose levels,
- meals that produce the most and least fluctuations in blood glucose levels,
- daily snapshots showing trendlines of blood glucose levels,
- periods of low and high blood glucose levels.
Combining the use of the Freestyle Libre CGMS with CuraMaker, people can use these personalised insights to make informed decisions on their dietary lifestyles, to achieve their health and fitness goals – be it to lose weight, reduce your waist circumference, increase your fitness performance, take early action to prevent chronic diseases or minimise dependence on medication to alleviate chronic diseases.
The CuraMaker team will focus on serving the Singapore market in the near-term, with a view to launch CuraMaker in key markets across the Southeast Asia region. At the same time, CuraMaker will continue working on the next phase of development with a team of data scientists and machine learning specialists, who have medical and epidemiology sector expertise and based out of Australia. With a shared passion of humanising data and making it accessible to people, so they can achieve their heath and fitness goals, you can expect more dynamic and actionable insights to be delivered to the CuraMaker app in the near future!
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