Texas Tech University

Saving Lives One Smile at a Time

Kathryn Dankesreiter, Innovation Hub Team

May 3, 2022

StarKrug develops innovation to monitor the safety of insulin vials for those with diabetes!

According to the CDC, nearly one in ten people have diabetes. Those diagnosed with diabetes rely on insulin. But what happens when the insulin does more harm than good?

Ian Stark and Baxter Krug witnessed this problem first-hand when their mutual friend used an improperly stored vial of insulin and developed severe medical issues as a result. Stark and Krug wanted to ensure it doesn't happen again. The two Technical Communications Ph.D. students formed StarKrug, a research and development company with the goal to develop technology that improves the lives of those with chronic illnesses, including diabetes.

Safety with a Smile

StarKrug's first project is developing and launching INSUL-80. “Ideally, INSUL-80 will help prevent improperly stored, unsafe insulin from even reaching pharmacy shelves- but if nothing else, it should keep it out of diabetics' hands.”

INSUL-80 is a sticker placed on the insulin vial that monitors invisible killers, such as variable temperature and overexposure to UV rays. “Imagine a sticker with a green smiley face symbol that lets you know your insulin is safe to use or a red frowny face that lets you know your insulin is unsafe and can no longer be used.”

Green, Yellow, and Red Smile Faces

“The idea has been on the board ever since we decided to make sure what happened to our friend didn't happen again, but we accelerated development dramatically in the last year thanks to the Innovation Hub's programs.”

Work Hard, Hustle Harder

Last fall, StarKrug pitched their idea to the Texas Tech Innovation Hub through the 2021 Red Raider Idea Competition. Taysha Williams, the Senior Program Director at the Hub, encouraged them to move forward with their idea through other programs.

The two entrepreneurs, despite being full-time Ph.D. students, saw an opportunity to build StarKrug and launch INSUL-80 quicker than they imagined. Shortly after entering the Idea Competition, StarKrug applied to the 2021 iLaunch Competition.

Stark and Krug walked away from the iLaunch Awards and Entrepreneur Social with the second-place prize and feedback from the Hub's panel of judges. The hustle didn't stop there.

“Since iLaunch, we've completed the National Science Foundation's Regional I-Corps program hosted by the Innovation Hub, as well as applied to the Texas Tech Accelerator program.”

During the 2022 Discoveries to Impact conference, Baxter Krug and Ian Stark reintroduced their INSUL-80 idea to the judges at the Texas Tech Accelerator Competition. Their passion for helping those with diabetes was palpable and StarKrug earned its spot as a part of the sixth cohort of the Texas Tech Accelerator program

Ask Better Questions

The two academic researchers became entrepreneurs when they saw a need for a product that would impact not only the life of their friend but the lives of millions in the US. Their eventual goal is to improve the lives of those struggling not only with diabetes but with other chronic health conditions.

“In the long term, that would entail the deep integration of our technologies into the healthcare system- from the actual manufacturers of medications, to preventative health insurance policies, to the individual providers in a patient's community of care.”

As the health communications expert and environmental scientist start their year-long journey as a part of the Accelerator program, StarKrug encourages us to “ask better questions”.