Fitbit invests in Sano, diabetes tech start-up, to catch Apple

Fitbit has made its first-ever start-up investment, putting more than $6 million into an enterprise called Sano, which is developing a coin-sized patch that tracks blood sugar levels to help control diabetes.

Building blood-sugar tracking into a future device could dramatically increase the market for Fitbit devices since more than 100 million Americans are now living with diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fitbit has recently suffered declining sales: It sold 3.6 million devices in the quarter ended Sept. 30, down from 5.3 million a year earlier.

Apple is known to have a research team working on a noninvasive glucose reader, as CNBC first reported in April. The New York Times in December reported that the project was authorized by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs while embroiled in a personal battle with diabetes, and current CEO Tim Cook has been seen testing a personal glucose monitor.

The Apple Watch is Fitbit’s most formidable competitor.

Fitbit CEO James Park confirmed the Sano deal this week to CNBC. The investment is part of a larger financing round that Sano expects to close in coming months.

“This fits into our strategy of looking beyond the device and thinking more about (health) solutions,” said Park. “I think the complete solution comes in the form of having some monitoring solution that is coupled with a display, and a wearable that can give you the interventions at the right moment,” he said.

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