Insulin Therapy 100 Years Later

One hundred years ago, the discovery of insulin fundamentally changed how diabetes is treated.1 Dr. Elliot P. Joslin (1869-1962), an early, influential voice in diabetes care was in clinical practice when insulin was discovered by the Toronto research group in 1921. He clearly captured the challenges of insulin therapy in diabetes care when he stated:1

“I look upon the diabetic as a charioteer, and his chariot is drawn by three steeds named Diet, Insulin, and Exercise. It takes will to drive one horse, intelligence to manage a team of two, but someone must be a very good teamster who can get all three to pull together”

Since those early days of insulin administered with glass syringes and urine glucose checks, we have new advanced insulin formulations including analog rapid- and ultralong-acting insulins, smart insulin delivery systems including smart insulin pens and “hybrid” closed loop systems, and small, discrete continuous glucose monitoring devices.

The advent of smart* insulin pens has ushered injection therapy into the connected diabetes care ecosystem for the millions of people who rely on injections. The InPen™ is a smart insulin pen that provides automatic dose recording, differentiating prime from therapeutic doses and the ability to track active insulin and account for this in personalized meal and correction dose recommendations. The smart insulin pen is able to provide missed dose reminders when doses are omitted during regularly scheduled mealtimes and integrates insulin dose, glucose and meal history data in comprehensive data reports that can be shared as needed with the care team.2

There is still more work to do including mitigating the challenges of the multiple insulin dosing decisions per day around meals, exercise and other predictable activities.3 Rather than relying on accurate carbohydrate counting and the appropriate timing of insulin administration, the addition of artificial intelligence into current algorithms will serve to promote pharmaco-adherence4 while providing personalized, precision diabetes management with less burden for the person with diabetes, their care partners and their care team.

Medtronic is working to make diabetes technology available to all patients. By offering a full suite of insulin delivery and glucose monitoring technologies, Medtronic is committed to meeting people where they are in their diabetes journey and helping them learn about their technology options as their life with diabetes evolves.

Medtronic is also pleased to have contributed to innovations that have made meaningful improvements to how diabetes is managed. We remain committed to research and innovation as we play our part in reducing the burden of living with diabetes with solutions for all the ways people want to manage their diabetes around the world. So, as we celebrate the first 100 years of insulin, we also celebrate and look forward to an amazing future.

Timeline of the evolution of glycemic control pioneered by Medtronic.

We invite you to learn more about how diabetes care has evolved over the years, the history of Medtronic innovation and the innovation pipeline by accessing the following links:

How diabetes management has evolved over the years

History of Medtronic Innovation

Innovation Pipeline


Smart insulin pens connect to a mobile app to provide dosing calculations, reminders and CGM system integration.


Bliss, M. The Discovery of Insulin. (1982) The University of Chicago Press. 


Kerr D, Warshaw H. Smart Insulin Pens Will Address Critical Unmet Needs for People with Diabetes Using Insulin. Endocrine Today, 2019;17(5):21-22


Vigersky RA, et al. Clinical Perspective. Nature Milestones Supplement, 2021, in press. 


Klonoff DC, Zhang JY, Shang T, Mehta C, Kerr D, Pharmacoadherence: An Opportunity for Digital Health to Inform the Third Dimension of Pharmacotherapy for Diabetes. JDST, 2020;